Is Your Cut Infected? Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

Here are the red flag signs your minor injury may need medical attention.

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You’re making a salad for lunch. Chop. Chop. Chop. You’re dicing an avocado to add a deliciously creamy final touch, when all of a sudden … GAH! You’ve cut through the avocado skin and nicked your hand. (This injury is more common than you think: Learn more about “avocado hand” here.)

You then do what any person would do when inflicted with a small wound: Follow the proper first aid steps to treat a minor cut. You wash your hands, stop the bleeding with gauze, rinse and wash around the cut, apply antibiotic ointment, and slap a bandage on it.

In most cases, if cared for correctly, small cuts and scrapes are no big deal and heal just fine by themselves (*snaps* for your immune system). Sometimes, however, cuts can get infected. This happens when bacteria enter the skin through the open wound and grow faster than your body can fight them.

If an infection is left untreated, it can become serious. If you notice any of these warning signs, call a doctor as soon as possible:

  • Redness around the wound that’s expanding
  • Green, yellow, or cloudy pus coming from the wound
  • Red streaks around the wound
  • Swelling, pain, or tenderness at the wound site
  • Fever or general ill feeling

To treat the infection, your doctor will likely give you antibiotics. Important: Take antibiotics as directed. These meds help your body fight—and beat—the infection-causing bacteria.

Want to continue your first aid-ucation? Check out these common first aid myths.