Even minor cuts and scrapes can present serious health problems if they become infected. To avoid infection, be sure to cleanse all cuts and scrapes with soap and water, removing any debris left in the wound with disinfected tweezers. Apply a thin coat of antibiotic ointment and dress with a bandage or gauze and tape. Wash and re-dress wounds daily.
Sings of infection include weeping yellow or green fluid, as well as swelling, redness, or pain on the skin around the wound. If accompanied by fever and red streaking on the skin around the wound, the infection is very serious and requires immediate medical attention.
Puncture wounds, particularly on the feet, are at a greater risk of developing infection. If the wound is caused by a metal object, a tetanus shot is recommended if it’s been more than five years since your last shot or if you have not yet received three tetanus shots in your lifetime.
How serious: most infected cuts are just a minor annoyance, but infections accompanied by red streaking and fever should be treated as a medical emergency.
How likely: adventurous travelers can frequently acquire cuts and scrapes along their way, so be sure to carry a first aid kit.
Symptoms: redness, swelling, pain, a warm sensation, or red streaking of the skin around the wound, weeping yellow or green pus, fever.
How to avoid it: carry a first aid kit stocked with tweezers, isopropyl alcohol, antibiotic ointment, bandages, gauze, and tape. Cleanse wounds immediately, keep them bandaged, remembering to cleanse wound and change bandages daily or any time the dressing becomes wet or dirty.
How to treat it: cleanse wound and apply antibiotic ointment. If symptoms do not improve, seek medical attention. Medical professionals may flush the wound with antibiotic solution or administer oral antibiotics.
How serious: most infections are not serious, but red streaking and fever are signs of lymphangitis, a potentially life-threatening condition that may require IV antibiotics. Seek medical attention immediately if these signs are present or if the wound is deep, from a rusty metal object, or caused by an animal bite.
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