Laceration: Infected Repair

A laceration is a cut through the skin. It has been closed with stitches. But the cut has become infected. Infection is more likely to occur if:

  • The wound was deep or a puncture wound. These are more likely to get infected than shallow or wide-open wounds that are easier to clean.

  • Dirt or particles were deep into the wound at the time of injury

  • The wound was from a human and or animal bite.

  • You have diabetes, HIV infection, or other problem that affects your immune system

  • You are taking medicine that affects your immune system

  • Home care of the laceration was not followed carefully

Treatment of an infected repair may require removal of some or all of the stitches. You may need to take oral antibiotic medicine to treat the infection.

Home care

  • If antibiotics have been prescribed, take them exactly as directed. Don't stop taking them until they are gone or you are told to stop, even if you feel better. 

  • Follow the healthcare provider’s instructions on how to care for the cut.

  • Unless otherwise instructed, change the bandage twice a day for the first few days, until the drainage stops. Then change it once a day. Change the bandage if it becomes wet, stained with wound fluid, or dirty.

Clean the wound daily:

  • After removing the bandage, gently wash the area with soap and water. Use a wet cotton swab to loosen and remove any blood or crust that forms.

  • After cleaning, apply a thin layer of over-the-counter antibiotic ointment if advised. Reapply a fresh bandage.

  • Follow the healthcare provider's instructions for keeping the wound dry. You may be given restrictions on showering or tub baths.

  • If the bandage gets wet, remove it. Gently pat the wound dry with a clean cloth, then replace the wet bandage with a dry one.

  • Don't scratch, rub, or pick at the area.

  • Wash your hands with soap and clean, running water before and after cleaning the wound or changing the bandage.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. It's important to follow up to make sure the infection is improving.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Symptoms don't begin to improve

  • Wound pain, redness, or swelling increases

  • Red streaks spread from the wound

  • Pus coming from the wound increases

  • You have a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Chills

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