ZocdocAnswersHow do I know if a cut is infected?

Question

How do I know if a cut is infected?

I got cut by a fence at the park today. The cut isn't too bad and I cleaned it out with alcohol, but the fence was probably really dirty. How do I know if my cut is infected? Will it just not heal or what?

Answer

Although scrapes and cuts are very common and usually heal without incident, sometimes they can cause more serious complications such as infections. Signs of infection in a cut include redness around the cut, especially if it starts spreading, any signs of pus (a thick yellowish or greenish liquid coming from the cut), and increased swelling, tenderness, and warmth around the injury. Fever is also a sign of a more serious infection. If you have any of these signs or symptoms it is very important for you to see your primary care doctor to be examined and get appropriate medical treatment. It is also very important to make sure that you are up to date with your tetanus vaccination. Tetanus is a serious disease caused by bacteria that causes muscle spasms and rigidity. To prevent infection it is imperative that you keep the wound as clean as possible. Wash the cut with soap and water at least three times a day. Let dry and apply an antibacterial ointment and cover with a bandage. Every time you clean the wound, examine it for any signs of infection as discussed above. Again, please make an appointment with your primary care provider if you see any signs of infection and to see if you need a tetanus shot.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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