What Is a Puncture Wound?

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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 May 2020
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A puncture wound is an injury that occurs when an object penetrates the surface of the skin. Common causes often include stepping on a sharp object or getting bitten by an animal. Minor wounds that just break the surface of the skin may not cause any complications; however, the deeper the wound pierces beneath the skin, the more likely it is to cause excessive bleeding and infection. If the wound is superficial with little bleeding, self-treatment is often to sufficient, but deep puncture wounds or those caused by an animal tend to require medical attention to reduce the risk of infection.

One of the most common symptoms of a puncture wound is a cut or tear to the skin with light bleeding. Not all wounds cause these immediate visual symptoms. For example, if small pieces of glass or debris are lodged into skin, there may be no bleeding or obvious puncture to the skin, which may cause a person to not seek any type of treatment.

When a puncture wound occurs, it is typically recommended to perform immediate first aid. It is usually advised to stop any bleeding, and then thoroughly wash the wound with gentle soap and water before applying antibiotic ointment and bandaging it. Since there is a high chance for complications, particularly if the puncturing item was from an animal or exposed to soil. Soil tends to carry tetanus spores, which are a type of bacteria that can cause a serious infection if it comes into contact with an open wound.

If a serious wound is suspected or symptoms develop well after the initial injury, medical attention may be advised. A doctor may clean the wound and use an instrument to remove any embedded pieces of debris. A tetanus vaccination shot may be administered if a person has not received one within the last 10 years to reduce the chances of a tetanus infection. People with conditions, such as peripheral vascular disease or diabetes, may be at a higher risk for developing infections from puncture wounds and will often be prescribed antibiotics to destroy any bacteria.

A puncture wound caused by an animal bite will typically require additional measures because of a possible exposure to rabies. Rabies is a viral infection that is generally spread through contact with animal saliva that is contaminated with the virus. A person who was bitten will usually receive a rabies vaccination to reduce the chance of developing a rabies infection. If left untreated, rabies can result in muscle spasms, convulsions, fever, and difficulty swallowing. It can eventually cause a person to fall into a coma or die.

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