What Are the Dangers of Open Cuts & Abrasions?

Written by samantha p. house
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What Are the Dangers of Open Cuts & Abrasions?
If treated with care, most open wounds heal without complication. (Marc Debnam/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

When it comes to description, the term "cut" is quite vague. Cuts, more appropriately referred to as open wounds, can usually be divided into five basic types: abrasions, lacerations, incisions, avulsions and punctures. A person receives an abrasion when the skin is scraped by a rough service. Lacerations occur when soft tissue is jaggedly, irregularly or bluntly torn or broken. Open wounds caused by knives, broken glass or razor blades are known as incisions. Avulsions occur when tissues are torn away from the body with force. Puncture wounds are when an object pierces a tiny hole in tissue. Although the five open wounds differ in origin, all are susceptible to infections such as cellulitis, necrotizing subcutaneous and gas gangrene if they aren't treated.

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This particular type of skin infection occurs when streptococcal or staphylococcal bacteria invade the skin through an open wound and weaken the skin cells. Most commonly infecting the lower half of the human body, cellulitis renders warm, swollen, red and tender to the touch skin. Occasionally, the infection also causes fevers, headaches and chills. Although most cases of cellulitis can be treated with oral antibiotics, severe cases sometimes require doctors to administrate antibiotics intravenously. To dodge contracting cellulitis, clean minor cuts and avoid reopening healing wounds.

Necrotizing Subcutaneous

Although it also occurs when bacteria infects tissue through open cuts, necrotizing subcutaneous infections result in more severe infection than cellulitis. The infection causes skin to swell, become inflamed, blush red and become hot to the touch. If the already-serious infection intensifies, the cut may develop gangrene. If treated immediately with antibiotics, gangrene can be avoided. To sidestep being inflicted by a necrotizing subcutaneous infection, wash open wounds immediately and keep the healing cut clean.

Gas Gangrene

This dangerous infection of skin tissue occurs when an open cut is infected by a bacteria such as Clostridium. Gas gangrene is a potentially lethal infection, and leads the infected person to suffer from fevers, heart palpatatations and extreme pain. The infected wound swells, and the skin surrounding it turns pale and sometimes releases a rust-coloured, rancid-smelling liquid. Due to how quickly gas gangrene spreads, penicillin must be administered intravenously and the dead, infectious tissue must be immediately and completely removed via surgery. To avoid the potentially lethal infection, always wash and cover open cuts.

First Aid for Open Cuts

Whether the cut happens to be an abrasion, laceration, incision, puncture or avulsion, a few precautionary first aid steps can be taken to make open cuts less susceptible to infection. Let the cut bleed without applying pressure, enabling the open wound to clean itself. Once the bleeding stops, wash the cut with warm water and soap. Before putting on a bandage, free the wound of any objects. If the cut is small, leaving the wound unbandanged usually allows it to heal faster.

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