The skin is the body’s best protection against infection. So once there’s a break in the skin in the form of a cut or wound, chances for infection are much higher. But just because your wound causes discomfort and appears red and swollen doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s infected. Discomfort, redness and swelling are typical signs of the body’s response once trauma is inflicted. How can you differentiate between the body’s normal response to trauma and the body’s inflammatory response to infection?
What Does the Area Look Like?
The body’s inflammatory response is its local response to infection or injury. When an area is injured or infected, the body’s inflammatory response will kick in. The area will appear:
- Painful and tender
This is just the typical inflammatory response and the body does this upon injury or infection. So if your wound shows signs like those described above, there’s no need to panic yet. Infected areas and areas that are simply injured will often look the same at first. However, a wound that isn’t infected will naturally begin to scab after a few days. An infected one does something quite different.
Is There Drainage?
If a wound is infected it will most likely show signs of drainage as it advances towards healing. This fluid can be clear and odorless, slightly bloody and odorless, or clear, bloody, and smelly. The severity of the infection usually determines the nature of fluid that drains from the wound. Once there is drainage, it’s a sign that your wound is infected. It’s important to remember that initial bleeding after injury does not count as wound drainage. Both infected and uninfected wounds will often bleed once there’s a break in the skin.
Protect Yourself From Infection
If your wound begins to scab over after a few days and shows no signs of drainage, it’s most likely not infected. However, once your skin is broken you remain very susceptible to infection. It’s important to stay on alert even if your wound isn’t infected at first. Keep your wound covered with a bandaid, bandage or clear dressing to prevent foreign pathogens from entering your body. Avoid scratching or picking at your wound since this will slow healing and increase the chances of introducing bacteria or viruses to the area. If your wound gets contaminated, immediately rinse it out with cool, running water. If your wound does happen to get infected, make sure to seek medical help right away.
Passport Health offers a variety of vaccination and physical services to help you stay safe and healthy at home and abroad. Call 937-306-7541 or book online to schedule your appointment today.
Ese Agboh is a student nurse who wants to specialize in pediatric nursing and wound care. In her free time, she enjoys reading and writing articles related to medicine and the pathophysiology of communicable diseases. Ese currently lives and studies on the east coast of the United States.