puncture wound is a forceful injury caused by a sharp, pointed object that
penetrates the skin. A puncture wound is usually narrower and deeper than a cut
or scrape. Many people accidentally get puncture wounds with household or work
items, yard tools, or when operating machinery. Most puncture wounds are minor,
and home treatment is usually all that is needed.
such as nails, tacks, ice picks, knives, teeth, and needles, can all cause
puncture wounds. Puncture wounds increase your risk of infection because they
are hard to clean and provide a warm, moist place for bacteria to
grow. The bacteria Pseudomonas are a common cause of infections when a puncture wound occurs through the sole of an athletic shoe.
Some punctures are done for
health reasons. For example, a puncture may be used by
a doctor to draw blood or to give fluid or medicines directly into a vein
(intravenous, or IV).
have an increased risk of needle-stick injuries. A puncture from a used needle
increases the risk of infection or for transmitting a blood-borne disease, such
human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Home treatment may
be all that is needed for puncture wounds from clean needles.
you have a puncture wound:
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you
should see a doctor.
Symptoms of difficulty breathing can range from mild to severe. For example:
Based on your answers, you need
or other emergency services now.
Put direct, steady pressure on the
wound until help arrives. Keep the area raised if you can.
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be
able to take care of this problem at home.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need
You may need a tetanus shot depending
on how dirty the wound is and how long it has been since your last shot.
With severe bleeding, any of these may
With moderate bleeding, any of these may
With mild bleeding, any of these may be
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The
problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Symptoms of infection may
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and
illness. Some examples in adults are:
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind
of care you may need. These include:
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Pain in adults and older children
Minor puncture wounds can be
treated effectively at home. If you do not have an increased risk of
infection, you do not have other injuries, and you do not need a tetanus shot or treatment by a
doctor, you can treat a puncture wound at home. Home
treatment can prevent infection and promote healing.
The American Red Cross recommends that everyone use blood and body fluid precautions with first aid treatment.
After you have stopped the bleeding, check your
symptoms to determine if and when you need to see your
Clean the wound as soon as possible
to reduce the chance of infection, scarring, and tattooing of the skin from
dirt left in the wound. (If dirt or other debris is not removed from a puncture
wound, the new skin will heal over it. The dirt can then be seen through the
skin and may look like a tattoo.)
Most puncture wounds heal
well and don't need a bandage. You may need to protect the puncture wound from
dirt and irritation. Be sure to clean the wound thoroughly before
bandaging it to reduce the risk of infection occurring under the bandage.
Puncture wounds are less likely than cuts to need stitches, staples or skin adhesives.
An ice or cold pack may help reduce
swelling and bruising. Never apply ice directly to a wound or the skin. This
could cause tissue damage.
Elevate the injured area on pillows
while applying ice and anytime you are sitting or lying down. Try to keep the
area at or above the level of your heart to reduce swelling.
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and
forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two
medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home
To prevent puncture wounds, be sure to practice safety when using blunt or sharp objects.
Be sure to have a tetanus shot every 10 years.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the
June 6, 2012
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
& H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
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