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Acute Wounds


An acute wound

is an injury that causes a break in the skin. As your wound begins to heal, it is normal to have some swelling, pain, and redness. Your body's immune system is working to keep your wound from getting infected. Your wound may develop a scab. The scab protects your wound as it heals.

Call 911 for the following:

  • You suddenly have trouble breathing or have chest pain.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Blood soaks through your bandage.
  • You have pus or a foul odor coming from the wound.
  • Your stitches come apart or your wound reopens.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You continue to have pain even after you have taken pain medicine.
  • You have muscle, joint, or body aches, sweating, or a fever.
  • You have increased 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

depends on how severe it is and where it is located. It may also depend on how long you have had the injury. Medicines may be given to treat or prevent infections. Medicines for pain may also be given. Wound care may include any of the following:

  • Cleaning and debridement is done to clean and remove objects, dirt, or dead tissues from the open wound. Your healthcare provider may use soap and water or a different solution to clean your wound. He or she may use a syringe to push the solution into all areas of your wound. The force from the syringe will help push out dirt.
  • 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. Some wounds may need to be packed with wet gauze for some time before closure. Some wounds may not need closure at all to heal.

Care for your wound as directed:

Acute wounds can be in different locations and caused by different injuries. Follow your healthcare provider's instructions on caring for your type of wound. The following care items are for most wounds:

  • Keep your wound covered with a clean and dry bandage. Change your bandage if it becomes wet or dirty. This will decrease the risk for infection in your wound. Follow your healthcare provider's instructions for changing your dressing.
  • Do not soak in a tub or swim until your healthcare provider says it is okay. Your wound may open if you get it too wet. Dirt from the water can also get into your wound and cause an infection.
  • Keep pets away from your wound. Pets carry germs that can cause a wound infection.
  • Do not pick or scratch scabs. Let scabs fall off on their own. You may damage new skin that is forming under the scab. You may have a worse scar after the damage.
  • Eat healthy foods and drink liquids as directed. Healthy foods give your body the nutrients it needs to heal your wound. Liquids prevent dehydration that can decrease the blood supply to your wound. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, grains (breads and cereals), dairy, and protein foods. Protein foods include meat, fish, nuts, and soy products. Protein, calories, vitamin C, and zinc help wounds heal. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about the foods you should eat to improve healing.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

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

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

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