Wounds become infected when the skin loses its continuity and has been in contact with contaminating agents. Usually it is not difficult to determine when the wound has become infected since there are many indicators that can be easily detected. For example. touch, color, and temperature changes, as well as various characteristics of fluids and skin. Below we provide guidelines on how to determine if a wound is infected and the way it should be treated.
After the skin has been subject to a surgical incision, cut or contusion, it is important to be aware of how the wound is progressing. If the wound is healing as it should, the following signs will be present:
- No presence of unpleasant smell
- No pain or discomfort to touch
- Skin has pink color
- No visible inflammation
- Skin feels warm
There are also other important signs which must be taken into consideration to better determine the status of a wound:
- The skin has to be at a temperature within 35 and 36.9°C. The temperature can be determined with the palms or the inside part of the wrist. If the wound feels too hot to the touch, then there is a great chance that an infection is already present.
- When the temperature of the skin increases, it will normally happen in conjunction with inflammation surrounding the sides of the wound. Reddening and swelling of the skin is a major sign of inflammation. However, within the first days, it is normal for an incision related to surgery that has been closed with staples or stitches to become slightly inflamed.
- It is common to feel pain when the wound is being treated with rubbing alcohol. Nevertheless, pain may also be felt once the wound has become infected. If there is a sudden onset or long-lasting pain that can be described as an intense pain moving through the body, infection in the wound may already be present.
- Appearance plays an important role when distinguishing between a wound that is healing properly and one that is not. Color normally tells if the wound is infected or not but it is extremely important to pay attention to the expansion of the wound edges. A late indication in infected wounds, would be the presence of abnormal surroundings and continuous expansion of the wound.
- The most noticeable and easily identifiable indication of infection is the presence of suppuration. If a wound is oozing fluids and the medical covering is soiled or there is a greenish yellow color, there is a possibility that the wound has become infected. The presence and smell of puss will confirm the infection even more.
- It is essential to follow the proper wound care steps to treat it appropriately:
- Rinse the wound with saline solution and soap and then gently pat it dry with an aseptic gauze. It is of utmost importance to properly clean the wound and make sure that there is no oozing left in it.
- It is essential to apply antibiotic ointment and properly cover the wound with a medical bandage and tape to avoid exposure to contamination. It is advisable to seek professional assistance when selecting the proper antibiotic ointment since there are many types and each one of them is intended for a different wound condition.
- If the wound has not progressed positively in the expected time or if the patient experiences fever, a health professional should be contacted as soon as possible. Otherwise the patient can experience sepsis (infection that extends all over the body) if the body is not capable of reacting against the infection. Should this happen, specialists prescribe oral or intravenous antibiotics to attack the infection.
If any of these signs are noticed, patients should immediately seek medical attention to get the right instructions as to how to go about and treat the infected wound.