How to Care for an Infected Open Wound

Jun 29, 2022

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How to Care for an Infected Open Wound

It can be as minor as a paper cut or as serious as a puncture wound from a dog bite. Any wound that creates an opening in the skin can become infected. If you notice signs that your open wound is infected, here's what you can do next. 

  • What is an infected open wound?
  • Treatment options for infected open wounds
  • When to seek medical care for an infected open wound

What is an infected open wound?

An open wound is an injury to the skin that leaves underlying tissues exposed. 

The skin is an important barrier that protects our internal tissues and organs from potential injury from the world around us. Compromising the skin barrier invites bacteria and other microorganisms into the body.

An infected open wound is a skin injury in which disease-causing organisms have invaded healthy tissue surrounding the wound. Infection of the wound triggers the body's immune response, causing inflammation and tissue damage and slowing the healing process.

Infected open wounds may show signs and symptoms, including:

  • Fever
  • Malaise
  • Green, tan, or smelly discharge
  • Increased pain in the wound
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Warmth
  • Inability to move the affected area

It is important to identify signs of an infected open wound to seek the proper treatment. 

Treatment options for infected open wounds

It's possible to treat most open wounds at home. The best care for an open wound is to keep the site clean and dry. Common over-the-counter treatments for open wounds with mild signs of infection include:

  • Topical wound washes or solutions
  • Corticosteroids for inflammation
  • Analgesic (pain-relieving) sprays
  • Topical antibiotic ointments

If you are unsure how to treat your wound at home, talk with a healthcare professional about your injury for evaluation and treatment. 

Wound dressings are also an important part of at-home care. Dressings or bandages protect open areas from getting dirty and can also speed healing. 

Today, many traditional wound dressings (such as cotton bandages) are being replaced by new innovative dressings that promote the optimal environment for wound healing. For basic wound care, don't be confused by the variety of wound products at the drugstore. Choose a bandage that fully covers the wound and change it every 1-2 days or when it is wet or dirty. With each bandage change, wash the area with warm water and mild soap to remove dead tissue or drainage.

The goal is to encourage your body's natural healing process.

When to seek medical attention for an infected open wound

Although you can treat most wounds at home, there will be times when you should seek medical attention for an infected open wound. 

Contact a qualified medical professional if you notice these signs or symptoms.

  1. Fever over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Increasing pain 
  3. Pus or smelly drainage from the wound
  4. Redness spreading outward from the injury site
  5. A wound that is not healing after seven days

Also, if the injury was caused by an animal bite or a rusty object, you should seek medical treatment as early as possible. Telemedicine providers offer a fast, affordable, and convenient way to see a doctor about your wound without leaving home.

Many private insurance companies and federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid cover telemedicine services


In short, some open wounds can be cared for at home. You can buy wound washes, ointments, and sprays online to bandage the site and encourage the body's natural healing process. However, if you have a wound that looks infected and are worried, you should talk to a medical professional. 

My Virtual Physician offers video consultations with expert doctors and wound care specialists on staff for new and chronic infected open wounds.  

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Contact us now to find out how you can book your free or low-cost appointment for wound treatment.

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Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice. The information, graphics, and images on this site are not intended to substitute diagnosis or treatment by a medical professional. Always seek the advice of a licensed physician for any questions you may have regarding a specific condition.


"Infected Wounds". Accessed June 28, 2022.

"Management of Acute & Chronic Wounds". Accessed June 28, 2022.

"Treatment Strategies for Infected Wounds". Accessed June 28, 2022.

"8 Signs and Symptoms of Wound Infection". Accessed June 28, 2022.


Sarah Falcone, BSN, RN, WCN-C, CSWD-C, is a certified wound care nurse, nursing consultant, and health content writer in Fort Worth, TX. She works with clients in home health, wound care, and telemedicine. Sarah is a passionate advocate for moving advanced levels of care to the home, where her clients can safely receive the medical treatments they need with greater satisfaction and comfort. She focuses on patient experience, outcomes, and advancing clinical models using innovative technology to serve patients better. Sarah draws from 15 years of practicing patient care and nursing leadership to share her own nursing experiences and expertise online. Connect with her on LinkedIn!