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Symptoms of Infection After a Skin Injury

Infection can develop after an injury or wound to the skin or mucous membranes (such as the inside of the nose or mouth), a bite or sting, a tattoo or piercing, or other skin problems. Symptoms of infection may include:

  • Increased pain, swelling, redness, or warmth around the affected area.
  • Red streaks extending from the affected area.
  • Drainage of pus from the area.
  • Fever.

Infection in a cut or other skin wound can occur from your own skin bacteria, from bacteria in the environment, or from bacteria on the puncturing object. Objects in the wound increase the chances of infection. Certain areas of the body normally have more skin bacteria, such as the genital and anal area, skin folds, and the web spaces between the toes. Wounds in these areas have an increased risk of infection.

Cuts and other skin wounds may become infected deep inside the wound. When a wound becomes infected, there may be few noticeable signs at the puncture site. The pain and swelling may feel as if they are deep inside the wound.

Sometimes the skin over a puncture wound heals while an infection develops deep within the puncture wound. When this happens, a pocket of pus (abscess) may form deep within the wound.

If you clean and care for your skin wound, you will reduce your chances of developing a skin infection.

Certain diseases may increase your risk for a serious infection. People with diabetes, peripheral arterial disease, or an impaired immune system may require medical treatment at the first symptoms of infection.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Last Revised April 22, 2013

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