Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Bacterial Skin Infection Skin Wounds

Care for infected skin wounds in someone with cellulitis includes:

  • The wound should be cleaned 2-3 times a day with a mild soap such as dilute baby shampoo.
  • A wet, cloth and dilute hydrogen peroxide is useful to help remove dead tissue.
  • Dry the wound gently, and completely, with a clean towel or gauze.
  • Apply an antibiotic and a dressing as needed.
  • Rest and elevate the affected area. A sling or splint may be helpful.
  • Take any prescribed medications as directed.
  • Try acetaminophen or ibuprofen for mild pain or fever.

Tetanus Considerations
Tetanus shots (boosters) can be given up to three days after a wound, as long as you have had all your tetanus shots in the past. A tetanus booster seldom needs to be given right at the time of the wound.

A tetanus shot is necessary right away if you have not had three tetanus shots at any time in your life.

You need a tetanus shot within three days for any infected wound if you have not had one within the past 5 years.

Rabies Considerations
Rabies is possible in many animals, including dogs and cats. Rodents and lagomorphs (rabbits) rarely carry rabies in most areas of the U.S.

Rabies may be present in certain animals:
  • Bats
  • Cats
  • Cattle
  • Dogs
  • Foxes
  • Raccoons
  • Skunks

Dogs or cats without adequate vaccinations may carry rabies. This is not usually the case for domestic dogs. Rabies may be safely excluded by professional observation of a dog or cat for a week to 10 days. This is usually performed by Animal Control personnel.

If there is any concern about rabies exposure, protective vaccines (5 injections over 28 days) are necessary. Rabies vaccination can be delayed for 72 hours after a bite to capture and identify a dog or cat.

Continue to Bacterial Skin Infection Warning Signs

Last Updated: Dec 7, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Bacterial Skin Infection References
  1. Edmonds M, Foster A. The use of antibiotics in the diabetic foot. Am J Surg. 2004 May;187(5A):25S-28S. [15147988]
  2. Leman P, Mukherjee D. Flucloxacillin alone or combined with benzylpenicillin to treat lower limb cellulitis: a randomised controlled trial. Emerg Med J. 2005 May;22(5):342-6. [15843702]
  3. Morris A. Cellulitis and erysipelas. Clin Evid. 2004 Dec;(12):2271-7. [15865787]
  4. Swartz MN. Clinical practice. Cellulitis. N Engl J Med. 2004 Feb 26;350(9):904-12. [14985488]
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