A puncture wound — such as results from stepping on a nail or being stuck with a tack — can be dangerous because of the risk of infection. The object that caused the wound may carry spores of tetanus or other bacteria, especially if the object had been exposed to the soil. Puncture wounds resulting from human or animal bites, including those of domestic dogs and cats, may be especially prone to infection. Puncture wounds on the foot are also more vulnerable to infection.
If the bite was deep enough to draw blood and the bleeding persists, seek medical attention. Otherwise, follow these steps:
- Stop the bleeding. Minor cuts and scrapes usually stop bleeding on their own. If they don't, apply gentle pressure with a clean cloth or bandage. If bleeding persists — if the blood spurts or continues to flow after several minutes of pressure — seek emergency assistance.
- Clean the wound. Rinse the wound well with clear water. A tweezers cleaned with alcohol may be used to remove small, superficial particles. If larger debris still remains more deeply embedded in the wound, see your doctor. Thorough wound cleaning reduces the risk of tetanus. To clean the area around the wound, use soap and a clean washcloth.
- Apply an antibiotic. After you clean the wound, apply a thin layer of an antibiotic cream or ointment to help keep the surface moist. These products don't make the wound heal faster, but they can discourage infection and allow your body to close the wound more efficiently. Certain ingredients in some ointments can cause a mild rash in some people. If a rash appears, stop using the ointment.
- Cover the wound. Exposure to air speeds healing, but bandages can help keep the wound clean and keep harmful bacteria out.
- Change the dressing regularly. Do so at least daily or whenever it becomes wet or dirty. If you're allergic to the adhesive used in most bandages, switch to adhesive-free dressings or sterile gauze and hypoallergenic paper tape, which doesn't cause allergic reactions. These supplies are generally available at pharmacies.
- Watch for signs of infection. See your doctor if the wound doesn't heal or if you notice any redness, drainage, warmth or swelling.
If the puncture is deep, is in your foot, is contaminated or is the result of an animal or human bite, see your doctor.
- For minor wounds. If the bite barely breaks the skin and there is no danger of rabies, treat it as a minor wound. Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water. Apply an antibiotic cream to prevent infection and cover the bite with a clean bandage.
- For deep wounds. If the animal bite creates a deep puncture of the skin or the skin is badly torn and bleeding, apply pressure with a clean, dry cloth to stop the bleeding and see your doctor.
- For infection. If you notice signs of infection such as swelling, redness, increased pain or oozing, see your doctor immediately.
- For suspected rabies. If you suspect the bite was caused by an animal that might carry rabies — any bite from a wild or domestic animal of unknown immunization status — see your doctor immediately.
Domestic pets cause most animal bites. Dogs are more likely to bite than cats. Cat bites, however, are more likely to cause infection. Bites from non-immunized domestic animals and wild animals carry the risk of rabies. Rabies is more common in raccoons, skunks, bats and foxes than in cats and dogs. Rabbits, squirrels and other rodents rarely carry rabies. If an animal bites you or your child you must thoroughly clean the wound by washing with soap and tap water as soon as possible. A light scrubbing should occur during the wash. Then put a clean and dry bandage over the area. This treatment should not replace proper evaluation by a doctor.