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How to Clean a Wound and Prevent Infection

Any cut, even a small one, needs to be cleaned and covered to prevent infection. Even a simple cut that is not treated can lead to an infection that can spread throughout the body and cause illness that may be resistant to medication.

Before you clean a cut, wash your hands with soap and water. Then wipe the wound with a wet paper towel or a wash cloth with soap and water. Wipe from the middle to the outside to remove debris. Once the wound is free of dirt and debris, rinse it with water and blot it with a towel. Cover it with a sterile dressing and use an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment, if desired. Clean the wound daily and keep it covered. While your wound is healing, you should wash your hands before and after you touch the area.

Hydrogen peroxide can be used to clean small scrapes or abrasions, but it should not be used for large open wounds or deep cuts or for a long period of time. Hydrogen peroxide produces bubbles that remove debris stuck in a wound. It also kills bacteria, both the bad kind that can cause an infection and the good kind that can promote healing. Using hydrogen peroxide for too long can slow down the healing process.

If you have a cut that is infected, you should seek immediate medical attention. Signs of infection include swelling, red streaks traveling away from the site of the cut, pus or fluid that has a foul smell or is occurring in increasing amounts, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, and swollen lymph nodes. Treatment for an infection may include taking antibiotics.