How To Tell If a Cut is Infected

Cuts & Wounds

Apr 19, 2019


Cuts are so common, they’re often regarded as insignificant. This tends to be the case with knee scrapes from falling off a bicycle, paper cuts, or small injuries from slicing up produce. And while some are harmless, it’s important to recognize signs that a cut has become infected.

Failing to treat infected wounds can result in complications, such as skin infections, high fever, cellulitis, or sepsis, which can be life-threatening.

What Causes a Cut to Become Infected?

Our immune system is designed to keep us healthy by fighting off illness. However, bacteria can enter the bloodstream through an open wound. If the immune system can’t keep up with the additional bacteria, the cut becomes infected.

Signs a Cut Is Infected

The short-term signs that a cut is infected include:

  • The skin around the cut is red and/or swollen
  • Pus oozes from the cut
  • The area feels warm to the touch
  • Fever of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Fatigue and lack of energy

In addition, when a cut is infected, it won’t get better as days go by. In fact, the area will generally become more painful.

Treating an Infected Cut

Step 1. Clean the area. If it’s only slightly red, wash the area with soap and water. You may also clean it with hydrogen peroxide.

Step 2. Pat it dry or let it air dry.

Step 3. Apply antibiotic ointment.

Step 4. Cover the cut with a bandaid or a non-stick gauze pad until it starts healing (once the cut looks pink).

When to See a Doctor

Go to the doctor if you see pus, or if the area around the cut becomes painful and/or doesn’t improve within a day or two. Other reasons to seek medical attention immediately include:

  • The cut is ragged on the edges
  • The cut won’t stop bleeding
  • The cut is large or deep
  • You think there may be a foreign object in the cut
  • The cut was caused by an animal or insect bite
  • The cut was caused by a rusty sharp object
  • There is debris inside the cut (such as with road burn)
  • If you’re an older adult (65+)

24-Hour Emergency Room Services in Colorado Springs and Texas

If you have an infected cut, we can provide the care you need. If you have questions or need immediate treatment, your nearest Complete Care location is ready to help, no matter the time of day or night. We offer a variety of services to help you and your family in your time of need. No appointments are necessary.

Find the Complete Care location nearest you.