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Acute Wound Care


An acute wound

is an injury that causes a break in the skin. An acute wound can happen suddenly, last a short time, and may heal on its own.

Common signs and symptoms of an acute wound:

  • A cut, tear, or gash in your skin
  • Bleeding, swelling, pain, or trouble moving the affected area
  • Dirt or foreign objects inside the wound
  • Milky, yellow, green, or brown pus in the wound
  • Red, tender, or warm area around the pus
  • Fever

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have pus or a foul odor coming from the wound.
  • You have sudden trouble breathing or chest pain.
  • Blood soaks through your bandage.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have muscle, joint, or body aches, sweating, or a fever.
  • You have more swelling, redness, or bleeding in your wound.
  • Your skin is itchy, swollen, or you have a rash.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for an acute wound

may include any of the following:

  • Cleansing is done with soap and water to wash away germs and decrease the risk of infection. Sterile water further cleans the wound. The cleaning is done under high pressure with a catheter tip and large syringe. A solution that kills germs may also be used.
  • Debridement is done to clean and remove objects, dirt, or dead tissues from the open wound. Healthcare providers may also drain the wound to clean out pus.
  • Closure of the wound is done with stitches, staples, skin adhesive, or other treatments. This may be done if the wound is wide or deep. Stitches may be needed if the wound is in an area that moves a lot, such as the hands, feet, and joints. Stitches may help to keep the wound from getting infected. They may also decrease the amount of scarring you have. Some wounds may heal better without stitches.

Wound care:

  • If your wound was closed with thin strips of medical tape, keep them clean and dry. The strips of medical tape will fall off on their own. Do not pull them off.
  • Keep the bandage clean and dry. Do not remove the bandage over your wound unless your healthcare provider says it is okay.
  • Wash your hands before and after you take care of your wound to prevent infection.
  • Clean the wound as directed. If you cannot reach the wound, have someone help you.
  • If you have packing, make sure all the gauze used to pack the wound is taken out and replaced as directed. Keep track of how many gauze dressings are placed inside the wound.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Acute Wound Care (Ambulatory Care)

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