A puncture wound is a forceful injury caused by a sharp, pointed object that penetrates the skin. A puncture wound is usually narrower and deeper than a cut or scrape. Many people accidentally get puncture wounds with household or work items, yard tools, or when operating machinery. Most puncture wounds are minor, and home treatment is usually all that is needed.
Sharp objects, such as nails, tacks, ice picks, knives, teeth, and needles, can all cause puncture wounds. Puncture wounds increase your risk of infection because they are hard to clean and provide a warm, moist place for bacteria to grow. The bacteria Pseudomonas are a common cause of infections when a puncture wound occurs through the sole of an athletic shoe.
Health professionals have an increased risk of needle-stick injuries. A puncture from a used needle increases the risk of infection or for transmitting a blood-borne disease, such as hepatitis or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Home treatment may be all that is needed for puncture wounds from clean needles.
When you have a puncture wound:
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Minor puncture wounds can be treated effectively at home. If you do not have an increased risk of infection, you do not have other injuries, and you do not need a tetanus shot or treatment by a doctor, you can treat a puncture wound at home. Home treatment can prevent infection and promote healing.
The American Red Cross recommends that everyone use blood and body fluid precautions with first aid treatment.
After you have stopped the bleeding, check your symptoms to determine if and when you need to see your doctor.
Clean the wound as soon as possible to reduce the chance of infection, scarring, and tattooing of the skin from dirt left in the wound. (If dirt or other debris is not removed from a puncture wound, the new skin will heal over it. The dirt can then be seen through the skin and may look like a tattoo.)
Most puncture wounds heal well and don't need a bandage. You may need to protect the puncture wound from dirt and irritation. Be sure to clean the wound thoroughly before bandaging it to reduce the risk of infection occurring under the bandage. For more information, see how to bandage a wound.
An ice or cold pack may help reduce swelling and bruising. Never apply ice directly to a wound or the skin. This could cause tissue damage.
Elevate the injured area on pillows while applying ice and anytime you are sitting or lying down. Try to keep the area at or above the level of your heart to reduce swelling.
|Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:|
Talk to your child’s doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
|Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:|
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
To prevent puncture wounds, be sure to practice safety when using blunt or sharp objects.
Be sure to have a tetanus shot every 10 years. For more information, see the topic Immunizations.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
|Primary Medical Reviewer||William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||David Messenger, MD|
|Last Revised||September 16, 2010|
Last Revised: September 16, 2010
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & David Messenger, MD
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