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Infected Wounds

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
  • Swelling
  • 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

  1. Cover the wound with a sterile dressing and bandage into place.
  2. Raise the injured part if possible, to reduce swelling and pain.
  3. Seek early medical advice. Treat for shock if necessary.
Preventing infection

There are a number of things that you can do to reduce the risk of infection.

  • When time permits (for example for non­life-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.


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