How to Tell if You Have a Skin Infection

 

Any break in your skin, no matter how small, is an invitation for foreign matter to enter your body. Your body’s immune system generally does a great job fighting off these foreign invaders, but there are times when their numbers and strength are too strong, and an infection develops.

Given that the human skin is the largest organ, covering an average of 22 square feet for an average adult, we see our fair share of skin infections here at River Oaks ER in Houston.

To help you better determine whether you need medical attention, we’ve pulled together a list of five signs that a skin infection might be at play.

1. Pain 

One of the most hard-to-ignore signs is the throbbing pain that often accompanies an infection. It’s this pain that drives people through our doors at all hours of the day and night.

The reason for the pain is that as your body fights off the foreign substance, it creates inflammation in order to protect your tissue. This extra barrier acts as a shield while your white blood cells go to work to fight off the infection. A side effect of this inflammation is pain as the nerves in the area are irritated. 

If your infection abscesses, this pain becomes even greater because debris and white blood cells build up with no release mechanism. With an abscess, it’s particularly important that you come in to the ER since the area needs to be drained and cleaned. Left on its own, an abscess rarely gets better, and often gets worse.

2. Heat

When your body is fighting off foreign invaders, one of its defense mechanisms is to turn up the heat. While medical researchers aren’t entirely sure why your body does this, they believe that your body is attempting to create an inhospitable environment for the bacteria or virus.

Whatever the reason behind the body temperature change, it’s a surefire sign that you’re dealing with an infection. Any temperature over 100.4°F is considered a fever and the higher the number, the more serious your infection is. To be on the safe side, when you have a skin infection, we recommend you come in to River Oaks ER at the first sign of a fever.

3. Ooze

When your body is in fight mode, it ramps up production of white blood cells. As your white cells go into battle, they die off and create pus. While this is all completely normal, any excessive pus, or pus that continues for several days, is worthy of a visit to our ER. While it’s hard to give you an exact amount of pus, since it depends upon the size of the wound and the stage of the infection, use your judgment and exercise caution. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to infections.

4. Redness

One of the first signs of an infection is skin that’s red, which is also described as “angry.” If the edges of your wound are red and show no signs of improvement, you should let us take a look. If the redness starts to spread, it becomes imperative that you come in to see us. This is, literally, a red flag that your infection may be spreading, which can cause serious damage.

5. Slow healing

If your laceration doesn’t appear to be healing after a week or so, but it’s otherwise not causing you too much trouble, you should still get it checked out. This holds especially true if you have a chronic medical condition, such as diabetes.

Slow-healing wounds leave you open to more bacteria or other foreign matter, so the sooner we can close the area, the better.

When it comes to infections of any kind, let your comfort level be your guide. If you’re in pain, your body is sending you a message you can ill afford to ignore.

If you’re still not sure whether you have a skin infection or not, don’t hesitate to call us or come on in. River Oaks ER is open 24/7, 365 days a year for your convenience and peace of mind.

Posted 3/26/2018

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