How to tell if a cut is infected?

Signs of Infection

To tell if a cut is infected, look for these signs:

  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Local fever (the cut feels hot compared to areas around it)
  • Draining pus (the cut is oozing thick, gooey stuff)

If a cut or scrape becomes infected, you need to see a healthcare provider.

In most cases, only doctors, physician assistants, or nurse practitioners can give you antibiotics to fight the infection. Untreated, infected wounds can become serious. The worst-case scenario is that an infected cut develops into a full-body (systemic) infection.

To tell if you are developing a bigger infection, look for:

  • Fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (taken orally or rectally): It’s one thing if the cut is hot, but when the whole body has a fever it means the infection is spreading.
  • Body aches: Especially in joints and areas not adjacent to the injury, these are a sign of a widespread infection. It’s understandable if your cut is sore, but the rest of you shouldn’t be.
  • Nausea or diarrhea: These are both indicators that an infection has moved from the local injury to affect other body systems (specifically, the gastrointestinal system).

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