Proper wound care is part of an age-old tradition that many of us are exposed to at an early age. Concerned mothers everywhere have always urged their children to keep their playground-sustained wounds clean and protected, and for good reasons. Maintaining a clean wound is not only important for good hygiene, but it can also prevent your cut or scrape from becoming infected. An infected wound can delay wound-healing, increase scarring, and even make you sick. However, by observing some important steps to proper wound care, it’s easy to prevent infection and ensure that your skin recovers normally.
Continue reading to learn how to determine if your wound is infected and what you can do to prevent significant scarring from injuries.
Five signs that your wound is infected
A wound infection is a bacterial infection. As our understanding of bacterial infections grows, we are coming up with better and better ways to treat them. But how do you know when to treat your wound for an infection? Below are five signs to look for when you think your wound is infected.
Is it red and swollen?
During the wound healing process, some redness and swelling is normal—this is called inflammation. Inflammation helps to fight off bacteria and prevent infection. However, this stage of wound healing should only last for about 24 to 48 hours. If you notice that the inflammation lasts longer, it’s likely your body is fighting an infection at the wound site. If the infection does not go away on its own, it’s a good idea to get it checked out by a doctor. Is it painful?
Wounds are always accompanied by at least some pain. Trauma to the skin signals your brain that something is wrong, and the pain associated with it helps your body recognize and heal the wound. After the initial onset of the wound, your body will gradually begin healing over time and the pain should lessen. However, if you find that the pain is becoming greater over time, then an infection might be the culprit. Is it hot to the touch?
Heat is a normal sensation experience during the inflammatory phase of wound healing. Much like pain, redness, a swelling, heat is also a sign that your body is working to heal itself. But if sensations of heat persist beyond 24 to 48 hours, this may mean your body is sending infection-fighting cells to the wound bed. Do you feel sick?
The skin acts as a barrier that protects our inner organs from environmental pathogens. When this barrier is damaged, it leaves us vulnerable to infection that can spread from the wound site to other parts of our bodies. This can cause common cold-like symptoms including a fever, a lack of energy, and sleepiness. It’s important to contact a doctor if these symptoms worsen because it likely means you have an infection. What’s coming out of your wound?
One common way to tell if your wound is infected is simply by inspecting it for fluid drainage. All wounds drain fluids—blood and a clear ooze called “exudate.” But if your wound is excreting a thick discolored (yellow or brown) substance called “pus,” your wound has become infected. This pus, which consists of dead white blood cells that lost the battle against the infection, can sometimes emit a foul smell.
An infected wound can lead to increased scarring down the road, so it’s important to take preventative measures early on. Any type of injury, from road rash sustained in a motorcycle accident to a surgical incision, can lead to significant scarring. Major scars are often classified as
keloids or hypertrophic scars
. To avoid these scar types, it’s a good idea to always keep your wound clean, dry, and protected. After the wound has healed, the maturation or remodeling stage of wound healing
will begin to form a scar. Scar tissue that is raised and discolored is the result of excess collagen buildup
that forms in response to trauma. To prevent the buildup of collagen, silicone gel sheeting
or silicone sticks
should be used.
Silicone gel technology has been the gold standard in scar management for over 30 years. With numerous clinical studies
to support its efficacy, topical silicone is the go-to treatment option for countless surgeons and dermatologists worldwide. Through dermal hydration
and collagen regulation, medical silicone supports a healthy wound-healing response for all skin types. If your goal is to achieve flat and smooth scars after surgery or injury, silicone gel is your best first line of defense.