Skin > Skin - Localized Symptoms > Wound Infection

Wound Infection

Symptom Definition
A break in the skin shows signs of infection, such as:

  • Pus or cloudy fluid is draining from the wound
  • A pimple or yellow crust has formed on the wound (impetigo)
  • The scab has increased in size
  • Increasing redness occurs around the wound (cellulitis)
  • A red streak is spreading from the wound toward the heart (lymphangitis)
  • The wound has become extremely tender
  • Pain or swelling has increased 48 hours after the wound occurred
  • The lymph node draining that area of skin may become large and tender
  • Your child may develop a fever
  • The wound hasn't healed within 10 days after the injury

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Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If

  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • Fever occurs
  • Red streak runs from the wound
  • Increasing redness around the wound
  • Severe pain in the wound
  • Face wound with signs of infection

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 and 4) If

  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Pus or cloudy drainage from the wound
  • There is a pimple where a stitch comes through the skin
  • Wound becomes more tender after the 2nd day

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You have other questions or concerns

Parent Care at Home If

  • Wound doesn't look infected and you don't think your child needs to be seen

Home Care Advice for Mild Redness of Wound

  1. Warm Soaks or Local Heat: If the wound is open, soak it in warm water or put a warm wet cloth on the wound for 20 minutes 3 times per day. Use a warm saltwater solution containing 2 teaspoons of table salt per quart of water. If the wound is closed, apply a heating pad or warm, moist washcloth to the reddened area for 20 minutes 3 times per day.
  2. Antibiotic Ointment: Apply an antibiotic ointment 3 times a day. If the area could become dirty, cover with a Band-Aid.
  3. Pain Medicine: For pain relief, give acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  4. Expected Course: Pain and swelling normally peak on day 2. Any redness should go away by day 3 or 4. Complete healing should occur by day 10.
  5. Contagiousness: For true wound infections, your child can return to day care or school after the fever is gone and your child has received antibiotics for 24 hours.
  6. Call Your Doctor If
    • Wound becomes more tender
    • Redness starts to spread
    • Pus, drainage or fever occurs
    • your child becomes worse or develops any of the "Call Your Doctor Now" symptoms