As a physician, I have on occasion dealt with infected wounds, sometimes from injury and also after surgical procedures. In a survival setting, most wounds will be contaminated with debris, dirt, and bacteria. Therefore, anyone who will be medically responsible after a disaster occurs may expect to deal with wound infections. The ability to recognize and treat infected injuries will be an important one to have in times of trouble.
Recognizing a wound infection
Your skin is its own ecosystem, with bacteria that naturally live there, such as Staph. Epidermidis. When the immune system fails to recognize and fight an infection, even “normal” skin bacteria can invade deep wounds and cause serious damage. Delays in healing and even invasion of the circulation can lead to life-threatening conditions.
To identify an infected wound, look for these signs:
- Redness around the edges which spreads over time
- Swelling around the wound, sometimes appearing shiny
- Warmth in the area of the wound compared to other parts of the body
- Pain out of proportion to the size of the wound
- Drainage of fluid or pus from the wound, which can have a foul odor
- Lack of healing over time
Preventing Wound Infections
Proper wound care and frequent dressing changes are the cornerstones to preventing wound infections. In the healing process, new cells fill in an open wound by a process known as “Granulation”. These new cells need a moist environment for rapid growth, and so any deep wound should have a sterile moist (not soaking wet) bandage.
Treating Wound Infections
The most common cause of serious wound infections is the bacteria Staph. Aureus, although Group A Strep, Pseudomonas, and various intestinal bacteria are other micro-organisms commonly seen. An especially troublesome form of Staph. Aureus has shown resistant to the usual antibiotics used. This is called Methicillin Resistant Staph. Aureus, better known to the public as MRSA. Once only seen in hospital-based infections, this resistant micro-organism is now seen in the general population.
It’s important to not let a wound infection become severe because these are difficult to cure without IV antibiotics. For mild to moderate infections, consider some of the following antibiotics:
- Bactrim (Bird-Sulfa)
- Clindamycin (Fish-Cin)
- Doxycycline (Bird-Biotic)
- Cephalexin (Fish-Flox)
To find out more about these antibiotics and others, as well as dosages, and indications, check out our series of articles on the subject at doomandbloom.net or check out a print or digital copy of the Second Edition of our book “The Survival Medicine Handbook”.
There is more to prevention and treatment of wound infections than was covered in this article. What tips do YOU have for dealing with this important issue?