What is an open wound?

An open wound is characterized by skin that is cracked open where the underlying tissue is exposed to the outside environment. This puts an individual vulnerable to bleeding and even infection.

What are the types of open wounds?

  • Abrasions
  • Incisions
  • Lacerations
  • Puncture wounds
    Open wounds

    Apply pressure over the wound using a clean cloth or bandage for 20-30 minutes.

  • Gunshot wounds
  • Penetrating wounds

Potential complications

Generally, an open wound might progress to any of these complications:

  • Infections – most open wounds are triggered by dirty, contaminated objects that carry various types of organisms and bacteria. An infected wound might trigger pain, fever and drainage of pus.
  • Inflammation – this occurs from the immune response of the body to a foreign material that caused the wound. The inflammation causes redness, swelling, warmth and pain.
  • Loss of function – this can be brief or permanent depending on the severity of the wound and damage to the affected area.
  • Scarring – most cases of open wounds leaves behind a scar after healing and some even cause deformity of the area particularly with gunshot or penetrating wounds as well as lacerations.

How to manage an open wound

  • Bleeding control – apply pressure over the wound using a clean cloth or bandage for 20-30 minutes. Do not check frequently since this can prevent the blood from clotting.
  • Clean the wound – cleanse the wound using clean water and flush with sterile solution to get rid of any bacteria or debris. In some instances, surgical debridement is required to eliminate dead tissue and any foreign material that was not removed during the initial cleaning.
  • Apply a local antibiotic – apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment on the wound to reduce the risk for infection.
  • Closure of the wound – stitches, adhesive bands, staples or sterile bandage can be used to close the wound. Closing the wound brings the separated tissue together and promotes the healing process.
  • Change dressings – change the wound dressing at least once a day especially if soiled by drainage or blood.
  • Tetanus – if it is past 5 years since the past tetanus vaccination, a booster or new shot must be given. This is required for deep, contaminated wounds or by animal or human bites.

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on open wounds is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage open wounds and how to perform proper wound care by taking a standard first aid course with Red Deer First Aid.

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