Sometimes confused with cuts, puncture wounds are actually small holes rather than tears in the skin. They can disguise much more serious injury, especially when treated as a simple cut rather than a puncture wound, which is why it’s important to know how to handle these potentially sneaky injuries.

Here’s your quick guide to puncture wound treatment and prevention:

puncture wound on footPuncture wounds are often caused by stepping on sharp objects.

What are puncture wounds?

Puncture wounds are holes in the skin caused by a sharp or pointed object, such as a nail. They don’t always bleed, but they can be extremely prone to infection, especially if the object that caused the wound was dirty.

According to Healthline, the most common puncture wounds are external injuries that break the skin, caused by falls, car accidents, broken glass, stabbings, razor cuts or bites. Bullet injuries are also considered puncture wounds.

How do you treat a puncture wound?

If you’re in a place where you can wash your hands, always do so before handling a wound to avoid infection. For puncture wounds that bleed, the first concern is to stop the bleeding by applying gentle pressure with a clean bandage or cloth. Verywell Health advised holding the wounded area above heart level if possible, maintaining the pressure for about 15 minutes.

When the wound is deep and in a risky location, such as the neck, abdomen, back, pelvis, thigh, or chest, call 911 immediately. As always, for proper care and guidance make sure to call your medical practitioner. Otherwise, when cleaning the puncture wound, The Mayo Clinic suggests rinsing with clean water for five to 10 minutes, then using tweezers sanitized with alcohol to remove remaining dirt or debris. Clean the skin around the wound with soap and water. Apply an antibiotic ointment and cover the area with a clean bandage. Continue to change the dressing daily, and watch for signs of infection such as redness, excess drainage, inflammation or increased pain.

Can you prevent a puncture wound?

The best way to prevent puncture wounds is to wear proper protective gear when engaging in activities such as sports or machinery operation. Always clear away broken glass and clean up spills immediately to prevent accidental slips.

Puncture wounds are vulnerable to infection, so be mindful of avoiding complications or catching signs of infection before they become too serious. The Mayo Clinic advises to seek immediate medical attention if the affected area won’t stop bleeding or when the wound was caused by animal bites or dirty metal objects.

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