- First Aid Sprains & Strains Slideshow
- First Aid Essentials Slideshow
- Take the Trauma and First Aid Quiz
- Patient Comments: Cuts, Scrapes and Puncture Wounds - Experience
- Patient Comments: Cuts, Scrapes and Puncture Wounds - Medical Care
Quick GuideFirst Aid: Properly Caring for Wounds
How are puncture wounds different?
A puncture wound is caused by an object piercing the skin, creating a small hole. Some punctures can be very deep, depending on the source and cause.
Puncture wounds do not usually bleed much, but treatment is necessary to prevent infection. A puncture wound can cause infection because it forces bacteria and debris deep into the tissue, and the wound closes quickly forming an ideal place for bacteria to grow.
For example, if a nail penetrates deep into the foot, it can hit a bone and introduce bacteria into the bone. This risk is especially great if an object has gone through a pair of sneakers or tennis shoes. The foam in sneakers can harbor bacteria that can lead to serious infection in the tissues.
First aid for puncture wounds includes cleaning the area thoroughly with soap and water. These wounds are very difficult to clean out. If the area is swollen, ice can be applied and the area punctured should be elevated. Apply antibiotic ointments (Bacitracin, Polysporin, Neosporin) to prevent infection. Cover the wound with a bandage to keep out harmful bacteria and dirt. Cleanse the puncture wound and change the bandage three times a day, and monitor for signs of infection (the same signs as in the cuts section). Change the bandage any time it becomes wet or dirty.
People with suppressed immune systems or any particularly deep puncture wounds should be seen by a doctor. If it is difficult to remove the puncturing object, it may have penetrated the bone and requires medical care.
Most puncture wounds do not become infected, but if redness, swelling or bleeding persists, see your doctor.
Puncture wounds to the feet are a particular concern. Wear shoes to minimize the risk of a puncture wound from a nail or glass, especially if the affected person has diabetes or loss of sensation in the feet for any reason.
Additional common causes of puncture wounds can include animal or human bites, or splinters from wood or other plant material, which carry a high risk of infection and should be treated by a physician.