How can I prevent a wound from becoming infected?

Francis X. Downey, MD
Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular)

The following are guidelines to help prevent a wound infection:

1. Use good hand-washing techniques before and after contact with your wound to help prevent the spread of infection. Here are the steps to follow:

Hand-washing with soap and water:

  • Wet hands with warm water and apply soap.
  • Rub well over all surfaces for at least 15 seconds.
  • Rinse well under water.
  • Dry hands with clean towels.
  • Turn off the faucet with clean towels to prevent reinfecting hands.

Hand-washing with a waterless alcohol-based product or gel:

  • Apply approximately a nickel-sized amount of product to palm of hand.
  • Rub hands together, covering all surfaces including nails, until product evaporates, about 10 to 15 seconds.

2. Use clean latex or vinyl gloves if cleaning or touching the wound surface.

3. Keep nails short and remove nail polish. Long nails or polish can harbor bacteria.

4. Keep jewelry clean or remove it during wound care.

5. Use hypoallergenic lotions with antibacterial agents on skin surrounding the wound to maintain moisture and prevent irritation.

You can prevent infection by washing your wound carefully with soap, water and rubbing alcohol. An antibiotic ointment can help to prevent infection and promote healing. Signs of infection include: redness spreading from the wound site, increasing pain, drainage, warmth, swelling and a bad odor from the sore. If you experience any signs of infection, you should try to clean your wound and contact your doctor.

Stuart A. Linder, MD
Plastic Surgery
One can prevent their wound from becoming infected by proper cleaning of the wound with either sterilie water and/or hydrogen peroxide twice a day. Antibiotic ointments and creams may also be useful. For larger painful wounds, consider seeking the attention of a qualified physician experienced with wound care and management. Some patients may require either oral or intravenous antibiotics. 

Continue Learning about Injuries, Wound and Trauma

How to Care for a Wound That Won’t Heal
How to Care for a Wound That Won’t Heal
How quickly any wound heals depends on a number of factors, including your age, diet, medications, and health status. There’s also the wound itself: W...
Read More
What is a puncture wound to the chest?
American Red CrossAmerican Red Cross
Puncture wounds to the chest range from minor to life threatening. Stab and gunshot wounds are examp...
More Answers
How can I deal with itching as my wound heals?
Challenge AmericaChallenge America
During the healing process, the skin undergoes many changes.  Itching (pruritus) becomes common prob...
More Answers
Why Are Soft Tissue Injuries So Painful?
Why Are Soft Tissue Injuries So Painful?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.