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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 your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • 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.

Call your doctor 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

will depend on how severe the wound is and where it is located. It may also depend on the length of time you have had the injury. You may need any of the following:

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
  • Antibiotics may be given to prevent or treat an infection caused by bacteria.
  • Td vaccine is a booster shot used to help prevent tetanus and diphtheria. The Td booster may be given to adolescents and adults every 10 years or for certain wounds and injuries.
  • 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:

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.
    Healthy Foods

Follow up with your doctor as directed:

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

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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.