How Do I Recognize an Infected Wound?

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  • Written By: B. Koch
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 24 April 2014
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An infected wound can be identified from a number of symptoms. Redness, swelling, and heat at the site of the wound, as well as a throbbing pain, swollen lymph nodes, pus, and even a fever are all symptoms of an infected wound. If any of these symptoms are seen, medical help should be sought as soon as possible.

A skin lesion that does not heal over time but instead becomes increasingly painful is a sign that it may be an infected wound. The pain may increase quickly, becoming intense and is often described as a throbbing pain. It is possible for this pain to be controlled with over-the-counter pain medications, but one should visit the doctor as soon as possible because medical intervention is required to eliminate the infection.

If a wound is inflamed, red, or hot to the touch, this may indicate that the wound is infected. A mild amount of inflammation is common with all wounds, even those that are not infected, and this is part of the healing process. If the redness and swelling spread and become more severe over time, it is likely that the wound is infected.


Often, an infected wound will contain pus. It may retain this pus under the skin, or the wound may ooze. This pus can be white, yellow, or green. Discharge that has a foul odor is especially a symptom of infection. The bacteria in pus and other wound discharge contains large amounts of bacteria that can infect other individuals with open wounds. People with infected wounds should be careful to wash the area around the wound as well as their hands so that the bacteria is not transmitted to others.

Another sign of an infected wound is red streaking. This indicates that an infection has spread to the lymph system, the system that removes infections from the body's tissues. Other signs of a lymph infection are swollen and inflamed areas around the armpits, the neck, or around the groin, as these places are where lymph nodes are located.

It is not uncommon for an infected wound to cause symptoms that are not related to the wound at all. An infection anywhere on the skin can cause the affected individual to experience chills and a fever. This is a sign that the body is trying to fight off an infection.


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