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They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

Carl W. Buechner


Infection can occur when a pathogen contaminates a wound or injury. The pathogens can be bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi, prions and viroids. Our bodies are exposed to pathogens constantly throughout the day, but our bodies natural protections take care of most of these pathogens preventing an infection from occurring. Infections occur when the pathogen overwhelms the body’s natural defenses and beings to spread.

Infections can cause the following problems and complications:

- Increased healing time
- Increased scaring
- Tissue death (necrosis)
- Gangrene
- Amputation
(Sometimes the site of the infection needs to be amputate to prevent the infection from spreading through the whole body)
- Sepsis (where the infection spreads into your whole body)
Sepsis can cause organ damage and failure, seizures, coma and death.

There are thousands of pathogens that can infect a person, and many of the symptoms of infection are similar because the effects you are seeing are actually your immune systems response to the pathogen, rather than the direct effect of the pathogen itself. In immunosuppressed people, such as people with HIV/AIDS, cancer, hepatitis, or those taking immunosuppressant medications (like after organ transplant), infections can occur with a total absence of symptoms because the immune system does not respond to the pathogen.

Some common signs and symptoms of infection of external wounds are:

- Redness and/or swelling around a wound that continues to get worse and spread longer than 48 hours after the wound occurs.
- Increased heat around the wound compared to other areas of the body.
- Pus drainage. (Pus is thick, and can be white, green, brown or bloody)
In severe infections that have progressed you may also see:
- Red streaks traveling towards your heart from the site of the wound.
- The site of the wound has increased in size (ie. A 2 cm wound is now 4 cm).
- Redness/swelling that continues to increase even while taking antibiotics.
- Fever
- Fatigue
- Increased pain around the wound.
- Bad smell coming from the wound.


The best way to treat an infection is to make sure that you don’t get one in the first place by practicing good wound care.

If you suspect that you have an infection, you should call your doctor and set up an appointment to be seen in the next couple of days. If your regular doctor isn’t available you should go to an urgent care/after hours walk in clinic. If you exhibit any of the symptoms listed under as severe signs of infection you should go to the ER/A&E for treatment as soon as possible.

DO NOT ever take old antibiotics, or antibiotics prescribed for someone else.
DO NOT attempt to drain a wound yourself if you believe pus is trapped inside.
DO NOT ever put alcohol, betadine, iodine, or hydrogen peroxide in a wound if you suspect infection. These can actually damage cells and delay healing.

DO go to the doctor immediately if the wound was caused by an animal.
DO practice good wound care.
DO follow your doctor’s instructions for caring for your wound.
DO follow the exact instructions for taking antibiotics, and always finish all of them, even if you are feeling better.

What do expect at the doctor’s or hospital:

They will ask to explain how the wound happened, how long ago, and what care you have given the wound. They will ask how you are feeling overall, and how long the signs/symptoms of an infection have been going on. They may ask you if you have been on antibiotics recently, or if you have had any recent infections.

If the doctor decides that the wound isn’t infected they will probably send you home with wound care instructions. If they suspect that it is infected they may draw blood or swab to wound to try and determine what type of infection it is. They may give you a prescription for antibiotics to take at home or they may give you an anti-biotic IV drip if the infection is really severe. They may give you a Tetanus shot if you haven’t had one recently.

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