Infections are no laughing matter. No matter how careful we are we still get scratches, scrapes and punctures as well as the occasional more serious cuts. Keeping up on tetanus shots is important as is immediate attention to a wound. Still, once in a while it will get out of control and the bacteria start to win.
She sliced the side of her thumb open with a dirty, dull utility knife on Sunday. She cleaned it as usual and applied a band-aid.
Tuesday morning it was a bit inflamed and sore with spreading redness.
Tuesday afternoon the thumb was stiff. At my urging she called and made an appointment with our family physician to go in to have it looked at the next day since antibiotics were likely necessary at that point.
Tuesday evening there was a red line running up her arm from the infection. The inflammation was definitely worse and draining into her lymph system. I had her immediately contact the doctor on call who said she should go in this evening to the emergency room. We did and they gave her an IV plus oral antibiotics. They also said it was a very good thing she had come in that night rather than waiting for her appointment the next day as the infection was serious but fortunately had not yet spread to her blood.
Wednesday morning she kept her appointment and our family physician reiterated that it was important that she had gone in the night before because it had changed so rapidly. By then it was looking a little bit better.
How to care for a cut according to the doctor?
- Wash it under tap water to flush out any foreign debris and most bacteria.
- Air dry.
- If available apply an antibacterial ointment such as Bacitracin, Neosporin or Polysporin.
- Apply a bandage to protect it from contamination but only as needed – air exposure is good.
- Watch for infection and contact your doctor if you see signs of:
- Stiffness in joints
- Red line – bad
- Fever – real bad
- Nausia – real, real bad
- Unconscious – Let’s not go there…
Interestingly they said don’t apply Hydrogen Peroxide (HOOH 3% solution), which is what we used to do, the reason being that it degrades healthy tissue. However, when cleaning stitches they do recommend using Hydrogen Peroxide. Alcohol, while more mild than Hydrogen Peroxide, was also not generally advised.
They did suggest using heat from a warm pack on a mild infection or in combination with the antibiotics for more serious infections. I’ve also heard of soaking the wound in a salt water bath but didn’t get a chance to ask about that.
Today, Saturday, almost one week after the injury it looks much better and she has full use of her thumb again. Prompt attention made the difference. This is a key we work to instill in our children. Don’t hide an injury. It could get far worse. Taking care of it might hurt a little for a moment, cleaning the wound, but it makes a big difference in the long term outcome.
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