How to tell if a cut is infected

An infected cut can cause serious illness if left untreated. In many cases, skin infections like Staphylococcus aureus , Streptococcus aureus, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) start with the smallest cuts. Even a small cut that doesn't require stitches can cause big problems if it becomes infected and left untreated. So how do you know if a cut is infected?

Ellen Lindner / Get Medication Information

Signs of infection

Look for the following signs to determine if a cut is infected :

  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Localized fever (the cut feels warm compared to the area around it)
  • Leakage of pus (oozing of thick, sticky substance)

If a cut or scratch becomes infected, you should see a doctor.

In most cases, only doctors, paramedics, or nurses can give you antibiotics to fight the infection. Infected wounds that are not treated can become serious. In the worst case, an infected cut turns into a whole-body (systemic) infection.

To determine if you are developing a more serious infection, look for :

  • Fever above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (oral or rectal) – It's one thing if the cut is hot, but when the fever is all over the body, it means the infection is spreading.
  • Body aches : especially in the joints and areas not adjacent to the injury, this is a symptom of a generalized infection. It's understandable if your cut hurts, but the rest shouldn't be.
  • Nausea or diarrhea : Both indicators indicate that the infection has moved from the local trauma and has affected other body systems (in particular, the gastrointestinal tract). system).

When to see a doctor

If you have an infected cut or develop a systemic infection, see your doctor. Once the cut becomes infected, it will need the help of a doctor . Once an infection is identified, antibiotics will be needed to clear it. There are many antibiotics available, and different antibiotics work against different bacteria.

To find out which medicine is right for your situation, your doctor may need to swab your injury and send the swab for culture. The material will be examined under a microscope and placed in culture medium to see if any dangerous bacteria are growing.

Once the bacteria have grown enough, the exact types will be identified. If nothing grows beyond what is expected from healthy skin, the cut is not infected and antibiotics are not needed. If dangerous bacteria are found, they are tested to determine which antibiotics are best at killing them and stopping the infection.

Watch out

If a doctor, paramedic, or nurse prescribes antibiotics, take them all. Often you will start to feel better within a day or two after starting antibiotics, and you may be tempted to stop taking them. Do not do this.

Even if you feel better, the antibiotics have not yet killed all the bacteria. If you stop, the bacteria that survived the first few days of antibiotic treatment will reproduce. These are stronger bacteria and your offspring will be much more resistant to this antibiotic.

Prevention: keep clean

To avoid an infected cut, it is important that the cuts remain clean while they heal. In most cases, all you need is soap and water. Whether you use an antibiotic ointment or not is up to you, but you don't really have to.

This helps tape the cut closed, but remember to change the bandage every day and wash the cut with soap and water.

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