Keeping cuts, abrasions and other minor wounds clean and covered helps to stop illness-causing germs getting inside your body and causing an infection.
When our skin is healthy and intact, it provides a natural barrier to germs. But, if our skin is broken, for example due to a cut, graze or bite, it is easy for germs to enter our bodies through the wound and cause an infection. Wounds can get infected when:
Although most wound infections are mild, infected wounds take much longer to heal and are more likely to scar. And, occasionally the germs may spread into the blood, causing septicaemia (blood poisoning), which can become serious if not treated by a doctor.
If you’ve cut or wounded yourself, you may also need a tetanus jab (vaccination) if the injury has broken your skin and you aren’t up to date with your tentanus protection. Tetanus is a serious condition – if treated, it’s usually a short-term condition, but without treatment, it can become serious. You may have a higher risk of being infected with tetanus if the wound is deep or gets dirty with soil or manure. However, even small wounds, such as a prick from a thorn, can allow enough bacteria to get into your body to cause tetanus so make sure your vaccination is up-to-date.
If in doubt, check with your doctor.
Make sure you have a well-stocked first aid kit containing an antiseptic and some plasters, and use it to treat small cuts, grazes, insect bites, stings and other minor wounds at home.
To help stop minor wounds getting infected:
If a wound won’t stop bleeding or is serious, you will need to seek medical help straight away.
Dry, chapped skin occurs when there is a loss of the skin’s natural oils. The skin can become rough and start to crack, leaving it prone to infection. Chapped skin is often associated with extreme temperatures or windy conditions and mostly affects the exposed body parts, such as the lips, face and hands. To soothe and protect chapped skin, try applying a petroleum jelly.