Scrapes occur when you come into contact with an object forcefully enough to remove part of the top layer of skin. Scrapes can easily become infected, as the source of a scrape is rarely a clean object. Careful cleaning and close observation for early signs and symptoms of infection help prevent more serious complications from occurring after a scrape.
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Classic Signs and Symptoms
Since scrapes are often contaminated with dirt, gravel or other unclean material that contains bacteria, infection is always a possibility. Pain, redness in and around the wound site, warmth, swelling of the skin around the site and pus-like drainage are the classic signs and symptoms of infection in a scrape. These signs and symptoms -- other than pus draining from the wound -- also occur with inflammation, the body's initial response to any injury. Therefore, these signs and symptoms by themselves do not necessarily signal an infection.
When to Seek Help
The presence of pus indicates infection in a scrape. Intensification of pain, swelling and redness -- especially if the area of reddening is spreading outward from the wound -- indicate a need for medical attention. Fever may or may not occur, depending on how far and deep the infection has spread. People with a weakened immune system may not experience typical signs and symptoms of infection. Talk with your doctor after any injury if you take immune-suppressing medications or have a condition that weakens your immune system.