Any injury that pierces the skin can become infected. Infection is caused by germs entering the body, either through the object causing the injury (for example a dirty knife) or from sources after the injury occurred. Cuts, burns, bites, stings and open fractures all carry with them a risk of infection.
Signs and symptoms of infection
If the following signs and symptoms develop after an open wound is inflicted, the injured person should seek immediate medical attention:
- Increased pain
- Redness around the site of the wound
- Discharge from the site
- Unpleasant smell from the site of the wound
- Red tracks from the site to the heart
- Swollen glands
- Failure to heal
First Aid – Treating an infected wound
- Cover the wound with a sterile dressing and bandage into place.
- Raise the injured part if possible, to reduce swelling and pain.
- Seek early medical advice. Treat for shock if necessary.
There are a number of things that you can do to reduce the risk of infection.
- When time permits (for example for non life-threatening, less serious injuries), wash your hands thoroughly before treating an open wound.
- Wear gloves if available.
- Try to reduce direct contact with the open wound-for example, ask the injured person to apply pressure with her own hand if possible.
- Cover injuries as soon as practicable.
- Do not cough over injuries-turn away and cover your mouth.
- Advise the injured person to check that her tetanus immunisation is up-to-date.