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Wound (Skin) Infection

(En español, presione aquí)

 What is a wound infection?
 What is the cause?
 How long does it last?
 What is the treatment?
 How can I help prevent infections?
 When should I call my child's healthcare provider?

What is a wound infection?

When your child has a skin injury, watch for signs of infection. Signs that the wound is infected include:

What is the cause?

Most skin infections follow breaks in the skin (for example, from cuts, puncture wounds, animal bites, splinters, thorns, or burns). Bacteria (especially staphylococcus or streptococcus) then invade the wound and cause the infection. Some infections start with a closed rash (that is, the skin is not broken). Examples are insect bites, chickenpox, scabies, or acne. If a child picks at these rashes, the skin can become broken and then infected.

Deeper wounds (for example, puncture wounds) are much more likely to become infected than superficial wounds (for example, scrapes). The hands are at increased risk for infection from puncture wounds. The penetrating claws or teeth of cats pose a major risk for infection.

Cellulitis (skin infection) can sometimes start without any recent wound infection. This type of cellulitis is spread from the bloodstream and can be serious it is not treated.

How long does it last?

With appropriate antibiotics and warm soaks, the wound infection should improve within 24 to 48 hours. By that time, your child should stop having any fever caused by the infection. Any red streaking or red patches should stop spreading. The area of the wound should also be much less tender within 48 hours. Within one week after your child starts taking antibiotics, all signs of active infection should be completely gone.

What is the treatment?

How can I help prevent infections?

Wash all new wounds vigorously with soap and water for 5 to 10 minutes to remove dirt and bacteria. Soak puncture wounds in warm, soapy water for 15 minutes. Do this as soon as possible after the injury occurs, because the longer you wait, the less the benefit.

Encourage your child not to pick at insect bites, scabs, or other areas of irritated skin.

Teach your children that kissing an open wound is dangerous because the wound will become contaminated by the many germs in the mouth.

Applying an antibiotic ointment after cleaning might be helpful.

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?

Call IMMEDIATELY if:

Call during office hours if:

healthinformatics info

Related Topics

Wound (Skin) Infection

Cuts and Scratches

Impetigo (Infected Sores)

Puncture Wounds

Skin Infection: Cellulitis

Sutured Wound Care


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Last Modified: 2009-11-23

Last Reviewed: 2014-06-10

Website Updated: October 2014

Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Published by RelayHealth. © 2014 RelayHealth and/or one of its affiliates. All Rights Reserved.

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.


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