How to tell if you have an infected cut and how to treat it

Infected cut- Sometimes, you need to pay more attention to how you feel than how badly the cut looks.

Some cuts heal quickly while others take their sweet time–the location of the cut, how deep it is, what caused the injury, and how you treat the wound can all cause the healing process to take more or less time than usual.

A cut might not look pretty while it heals, but that doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong; as your skin recovers, it goes through a few stages involving different colors and textures (many of which are normal, including pink, white, and yellow-looking skin, and even clear drainage).

There is a point when a cut that looks bad can indicate a problem. This is usually an infection. You don’t want infections on your skin to go untreated. What is normal and what isn’t with cuts? How can you treat a cut that has become infected? This guide will help you decide what your cat is trying to tell you.

How do you know if your cat is infected?

It can be difficult to identify infected cuts, even though mild redness, swelling, and pain are common in the initial hours and days following a cut. These are not usually indicators that something is wrong.

Instead, you will need to look above the cut both literally and metaphorically.

“Any redness more than a quarter inch around the cut, or that doesn’t go away, can be a sign infection,” Michael Billet MD, an emergency medicine physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, tells Health. He says that symptoms such as fever, chills, and swelling of lymph nodes can indicate that the infection has spread beyond the injury site.

RELATED: Is it safe to be with unvaccinated friends? Here are the recommendations of doctors

You should feel sick if the area around your cut is expanding and you are feeling unwell. The skin around the cut may become warm and swollen. You might also notice red streaks radiating from the cut’s center. There could also be pus or discharge.

What does an infected cut look like?

Here is an example of an infected cat. Note how the redness has spread to more than a quarter-inch from the opening in your skin. Also, notice how certain parts of the cut look puffy or crusty.

How to tell if you have an infected cut and how to treat it
Infected cut Image

Who is most at-risk for infected cuts?

Dr. Billet says that two factors increase the risk of infection after an injury: the type and Health of your cut. Infected cats are more likely to be made if the cut is deep or jagged, has a large area, contains saliva (from an animal or human bite), or is done by a dirty object.

He says that a relatively clean-cut like one made from a freshly washed kitchen knife is less likely than walking on a piece of glass at the beach.

Your health history is also important. Certain medical conditions like HIV, diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and HIV can lead to cuts becoming more easily infected. Patients who are undergoing chemotherapy or take immune-suppressing medications are at greater risk for complications.

How do you treat a cut infected at home?

If your cat is not too severe and you aren’t suffering from any major health problems, you may be able to heal it at home.

“You can heat the area early in the infection to increase circulation and bring your own blood cells to it [to promote healing],” William Edwards MD, an emergency medicine doctor at Houston Methodist Hospital, tells Health.

It would help if you also followed the basic first aid steps of clean and cover as outlined below.


There are many ways to clean a cut. The method you choose depends on the type of cut, the dirt it has, and your supplies.

  1. Run water to rinse the cut. You can use soap, if needed, to clean around the cut.
  2. Take out any remaining debris. To clean out the wound, you can use a q-tip or tweezers to remove it. Or, you can flush it out with a small syringe.
  3. Allow it to air dry and keep it clean.


A clean bandage or wound dressing should be placed on the cut. The bandage should be changed at least once per day until it scabs over. Using an antibiotic cream is optional; some people find this speeds the healing process, but others may have an allergic reaction to products like Neosporin that mimics infection symptoms, says Dr. Billet.

What is the best time to see a doctor for an infected cut?

If you don’t stop the infection from the beginning, you will need to visit a doctor. If your cut is deep, it’s important to do this as soon as possible, says Dr. Edwards, because stitches typically can’t be used when a cut is more than 12 hours old. Dr. Edwards also points out that shallow cuts can be made in certain joints, such as elbows and knuckles. This will prevent the need to re-open frequently.

Even if no stitches are required, a doctor might need to clean the cut (aka remove any dead or infected tissue) and prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. Many antibiotics can be used to treat an infected cut. It all depends on where the wound is located and how severe the infection is.

Dr. Edwards says that while animal and human bites may require one type, normal scrapes or cuts can use another type. While superficial infections can be treated with oral antibiotics, underlying infections may require IV antibiotics inpatients or surgical drainage.

Even if the initial cut is small, you should not ignore signs of infection.

Dr. Billet explains that infection that spreads outwards from the wound or streaks away from it almost always requires antibiotics. Any cut in dirty water should also be examined as they often require antibiotics to prevent an infection.

Infected cuts can lead to the following complications:

These complications are very rare if you seek prompt medical attention. However, the risk of developing life-threatening or secondary conditions increases if an infection is not treated promptly. Dr. Billet states that redness and pain that doesn’t improve after using OTC pain relief medications should be seen by a doctor. It’s safer to be safe than sorry.

He advises, “Basically, if you are worried, get it checked out.” “I’d rather have 100 concerned well patients than someone sitting at home with worsening conditions.”

How can you stop your cuts from getting infected?

It is best to keep a cut clean and covered to avoid it from getting infected.

Dr. Billet says that the best and easiest way to treat a cut is to keep it under a stream of water for at most one minute. If the cut is particularly large or dirty, it will take longer.

Dr. Edwards concurs, stating that turbulence can be used to dislodge particles that could lead to infection. He recommends that you clean the cut with a mixture of hydrogen peroxide, water, and a topical antibiotic cream like polysporin. When the need arises to change or remove the bandage, it should be non-adherent.

Skip to toolbar