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Possible infection ... what do I do?

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I've been cutting a lot this past week and some odd days and everything seemed fine until my one cut on my left forearm began to hurt bad. It's not super red or really hot but today it opened up a bit and I squeezed it and when I did, a bit of puss came out before it turned to a clear substance. I picked at the wound a bit to get rid of any infected surrounding infected flesh and cleaned it with peroxide.

It's not really deep but I still don't want an infection. What should I do? Topical antibiotics? Tell my doctor on Tuesday when I go?

I also think a keloid is developing. Could that be the reason for the redness?

Any and all help is appreciated. I would like not to have to go to urgent care if I can avoid it, as my parents have no idea that I am still self harming.

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Well, your first step should probably be to stop picking at the wound. This will encourage the formation of scars, possibly introduce a new infection to the area, and prevent the body from healing naturally. I've read that hydrogen peroxide can damage healing skin. Topical antibiotic ointment is probably a good idea, but your best bet will obviously be asking your doctor.


As for the keloid scars, I've heard tea tree oil is a decent remedy, as long as the skin has already healed. I've used it on a scar that was forming around a piercing I have, and it worked pretty well. Everyone's body is different though.

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Keep track of redness/heat. If it changes for the worse, definitely make sure you talk to your doc about it. Especially if redness/swelling/heat grow and/or your see a red streak moving toward your heart. That's a BIG DEAL that requires immediate care... like "don't wait for next doc's appointment/go now" type of big deal.


Sometimes gently putting moist heat (warm but not hot damp washcloth) on an area you think might be infected 20 minutes several times per day will help. Follow up with topical antibiotic ointment a couple of times per day or as advised by your doc and a non-occlusive (breathable) dressing.


If you have doubts about infection, it's good to have a qualified medical pro eyeball it in person and provide recommendations for care.


A little redness is normal healing, as it indicates increased blood flow to the area. Increased blood flow to the area is bringing all the things your body needs to heal it self.


Yeah, like owly said... no tea tree oil on open wounds... that would be icky and not helpful.


Keep in mind we're all random wing nuts on the internet and a health care provider in person is your best resource.

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The others have both had good advice, but I wanted to add my two bits as well.


I get all my wound care advice from an RN who used to work in the ER, so take this for what it's worth. I'm not a pro, just sharing stuff that's helped me. 


Swelling, redness and irritation can be normal up to five days or so after a wound is inflicted. If the itching is persistent and difficult to ignore, and the redness doesn't start to dissipate, watch it very closely. This may be gross, but pus has a particular smell, distinct from blood and tissue. I sniff suspicious cuts if I can reach them. It's not a foolproof indicator, but it's actually been pretty reliable for me.


It's good to be vigilant, but bear in mind that the clear or whitish discharge you see may actually be dead lymph, which is part of the wound response process. Again, watch very closely.


Peroxide, alcohol and iodine can be dangerous in an open wound. They're all drying and irritating to damaged skin, and can actually make the problem worse.


Wash the wound, and your hands, thoroughly with soap and water. I use paper toweling to dry off after, because I can throw that away. Apply a thin layer of an antibiotic ointment around the edges of the wound, or apply it directly to the bandage. Don't put it on your fingers and rub it on there (guilty! :P). If the wound is still discharging heavily, change the dressing daily. Otherwise, it's okay to change every other day. Use a breathable bandage. If you have adhesive allergies, one thing that has helped me is barrier cream. Look for this in the pharmacy with the ostomy supplies. Another option is to use a non-stick bandage and gauze roll. That's my preferred method by far.


EDIT: another thing that works well for adhesive allergies is a plain old tube sock with the toe cut out. Cuff it, then unroll it slowly so that it doesn't disturb the non-stick dressing you've got over the wound. These can be bleached and reused, too.


The trick to minimize scarring is to keep the wound soft and covered, and don't let hard scabs form. It will heal quickly and if there is a scar it may be smaller.


If it's deep, or you suspect infection, see a clinician soonest. The rule I use for myself is the "grain of rice" rule. If I can lay a grain of white rice across the cut at its widest point, or if the cut, with its edges brought together, is deep enough to conceal a grain of rice, that cut needs attention. Obviously, if you can see the subcutaneous fat, which will look like whitish or yellowish tissue, or may have a bubbly texture, that cut should be looked at by a pro. In your case it's too late for stitches or steri-strips by now, but it's something to keep in mind. The deeper the cut, the higher the likelihood of infection. 


The Mayo Clinic website has excellent advice for wound care. Here's their page: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/first-aid-cuts/FA00042


Good luck. I hope you come out okay. Infection is scary, especially if you're keeping your SI a secret from the folks around you.

Edited by Mim
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