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5 Ways to Spot a Wound Infection

In my 20-plus years of practice I’ve heard just about every type of cream, ointment and home remedy used on a wound.  The bottom line is most patients really just want to know if their wound is infected and if they need to seek specialized care.

The right care

Most wounds will heal uneventfully if given the proper environment. Of course, there are other factors that can complicate or slow healing, such as poor circulation or nutrition. For the most part, though, caring for a wound simply means keeping it clean and covered. In other words, don’t leave it open to the air or let it scab over. Having a wound does not necessarily mean it is infected. Therefore, not every cut or wound needs an antibiotic.

Recognizing infection

Here are the five things look for if a wound has been slow to heal:

  1. Increased redness around the wound.
  2. Increased pain (not just at the wound, but moving up the limb).
  3. Increased swelling (extending away from the injury).
  4. Warmth of the skin around the wound.
  5. Fluid coming out of the wound that is thick or has an odor.

If there are two or more of these clinical signs, seek medical attention. If the wound has been present for longer than a month or seems very slow to heal, it may be time to contact a certified wound specialist. Just as you might turn to a cardiologist for a heart problem, a certified wound specialist can provide the most up-to-date treatment and advanced wound dressings to minimize infection, heal a wound and get you back to enjoying life.

Karen Wientjes Albaugh, DPT, CWS, Associate Professor, Doctor of Physical Therapy Program, Neumann University, [email protected]

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