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How Do I Treat an Infected Cut?

By Jacob Queen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Experts suggest that the best way to treat an infected cut is to let a medical professional handle it, usually through the use of antibiotics and prescription topical creams. There are also some things that you can sometimes do at home for very minor infections and several preventative steps that can help you avoid infection in the first place. Keeping a cut clean and applying a new bandage daily will help you fight off any bacterial infestations that may develop and also serves to protect you from future complications. Over-the-counter antibiotic ointments can also be helpful, especially when used in conjunction with good sanitary practices. As a general rule, when trying to treat an infected cut, remember that deeper wounds along with injuries from animal bites and other bacteria-contaminated sources are more likely to lead to serious problems.

The body usually does a good job keeping infections from ever developing in the first place, and most minor wounds will heal without any treatment. If you notice a lot of persistent redness around a wound, especially if it starts to spread, that can be a cause for concern. Infected cuts also have a tendency to ooze with a green or yellowish discharge, and the area around the cut might become somewhat swollen. These are some of the very first signs that an infection is developing, and often, they can be a sufficient reason to justify seeking medical attention.

Experts suggest one of the best ways to treat an infected cut is to keep the area clean. There are a few different approaches to this, including the immediate use of disinfectants around the area, but most doctors recommend that simply washing with water is usually good enough. Once the cut has been cleansed, you should apply a sterile bandage, and it is often a good idea to change the bandage daily. After a while, the bandage might become dirty, actually becoming a breeding ground for infectious agents, and potentially increasing the chance of a problem.

Wound infections are generally caused by some kind of bacterial invasion of the wound area, which hampers the body's healing ability. Antibiotic medications that fight these bacteria are usually the most favored approach for medical professionals when trying to treat an infected cut. These come in both oral and topical form and may be used as a preventative treatment in some cases to keep a wound from ever getting infected in the first place. For example, after a surgery, a doctor might prescribe an antibiotic to prevent the development of a future infection, and a few experts even recommend applying over-the-counter antibiotic ointment to a cut before bandaging it as a preventative measure.

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Discussion Comments
By mrwormy — On Aug 15, 2014

If the cut has started oozing green or yellow liquid, I usually go straight to the doctor for professional treatment. I cut my hand on a meat slicer at work one time and didn't get it treated properly. By the time I went to the emergency room, the pain was horrific and my hand was turning colors. It turned out that the meat on the slicer blade triggered a massive infection deep inside the wound, and I didn't clean it out well enough by myself. I was lucky I didn't lose that hand.

By AnswerMan — On Aug 15, 2014

I used to pour hydrogen peroxide over any open cut, because I assumed the fizzing and foaming action was helpful. I have stopped doing that after reading that hydrogen peroxide may also damage the healthy tissue around the cut. Now I slather a generous amount of triple action antibiotic ointment on the cut and wrap it with a bandage. The ointment seems to keep most cuts from getting infected.

When I was a kid, my mother used all sorts of things to treat infected cuts. I think Mercurochrome was the worst. It contained actual mercury and a lot of alcohol. She would "paint" it on with a plastic stick applicator, and the pain was almost unbearable. I think they stopped producing it a few years ago. There was also a liquid antibiotic in a spray bottle that didn't sting at all.

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