Signs of an Infection in an Open Wound

Most open wounds heal spontaneously if kept clean and dry. Sometimes the use of topical medications such as peroxide or bacitracin may aid in wound healing. However, an open wound may easily become infected and require medical care. It's very important that you know the signs and symptoms of infection. They include redness, swelling, discharge and fever.

A nurse treating a wound on a patient's hand. (Image: bojan fatur/iStock/Getty Images)

Redness and Swelling

If the area surrounding a wound becomes increasingly painful, reddened and swollen, it may signal the beginning stages of an infection. Keep the wound clean and dry, and monitor it closely. Any type of wound in a person with diabetes should prompt an immediate visit to a doctor. Diabetes slows wound healing and makes infection much more likely.

Discharge and Drainage

If you begin to notice discharge or drainage coming from a wound, this is a sign of impending infection. If the drainage isn't clear in color, is yellow or green and pus-like, this is an infected wound. It should not have a foul odor. At this point, a doctor should inspect the wound.


Fever is a sign of systemic infection. An open wound may become infected, and if not treated promptly, infection will spread throughout the body. If you experience the previously mentioned symptoms along with a fever, a doctor should be contacted immediately. You may be prescribed an antibiotic to facilitate healing.

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