Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"How can I tell if a cut is infected?"
I was working on my car last week, when i cut my hand open on an engine component. I was not able to clean the cut for about two hours from when it happened. Now a week later there is some rash and swelling on my hand and i think it might be infected.
Redness and swelling of the hand occurring after a break in the skin are very concerning signs that signal the possibility of an active infection. Typically, warmth, redness, swelling, and pain are the warning signs of an inflammatory process. These features can be seen in joints (such as those inflamed with gout or rheumatoid arthritis) as well as on the skin in relation to a local infection (such as a cellulitis). In your case, the time course of your symptoms suggests that they are related to the initial injury in which bacteria may have been introduced into the hand through the break in the skin. Given the anatomy of the hand and the dangers posed by an infection in such an enclosed structure, you should seek immediate care by your primary care physician or in an emergency room, where a specialist (i.e. hand surgeon) may need to evaluate you. If it is thought that you do have an infection in the hand, you will likely need intravenous antibiotics and an at least an evaluation for surgical washout of any infected tissue.
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