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Wound (Skin) Infection: Brief Version

What is a wound infection?

When bacteria gets into a cut or wound, your child may get a skin infection. You may notice your child has:

  • Pus or cloudy fluid from the wound
  • A pimple or yellow crust on the wound
  • A lot of redness around the cut
  • A red streak from the wound toward the heart
  • A large, tender lymph node in the area
  • A fever

How can I take care of my child?

  • Give antibiotics. Your child needs the medicine prescribed by your doctor.
  • Soak the wound in warm water. This cleans it out and helps it heal. Make a warm saltwater bath. Put in 2 teaspoons of table salt for each quart of water. Soak your child's cut in the water for 20 minutes 3 times a day. You can also use a wash cloth soaked in the salt water on the cut. Put on a clean bandage after each soak.

    If the wound has stitches, keep it dry for the first 24 hours. Wash once a day with soap and water, but do not soak the wound until the stitches are taken out.

  • Use heat. If your child's wound is closed, put a heating pad or warm, wet washcloth on the red area. Do this for 20 minutes 3 times a day.
  • Give fever and pain medicine. Give your child acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) if there is pain or fever. No aspirin.

Call your child's doctor right away if:

  • The redness from the wound spreads.
  • The wound gets very painful.
  • Your child starts to act very sick.

Call your child's doctor during office hours if:

  • Your child's fever is not gone after 48 hours on the medicine.
  • The wound does not look better after 3 days on the medicine.
  • The wound isn't fully healed in 10 days.
  • You have other questions or concerns.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2009-11-23
Last reviewed: 2018-07-13
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.
Copyright ©1986-2018 Barton D. Schmitt, MD FAAP. All rights reserved.
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