How to recognize a wound infection?

Approximately one in one hundred surgical wounds becomes infected.

The following signs indicate this:

  • the pain becomes stronger
  • the skin around the wound becomes red
  • the area becomes warm and swollen
  • chills and fever may occur
  • pus (yellowish liquid) is leaking out, which may also have an odor
  • general malaise may occur.

Many infections can be prevented by careful hygiene. This includes washing before the procedure and being hygienic with a dressing. It is important to keep the medical check-up appointments.

Observe the wound and watch for changes in the wound and your body. For example, the wound may wet and the dressing may become soaked. Then a dressing change is necessary.

It is not always easy to judge whether an infection is really present, because the wound is usually somewhat painful and red after the operation anyway. In addition, it is covered with a bandage or plaster, so you often cannot see it at all.
However, it is important to detect and treat an infection as early as possible. Because in the worst case, the pathogens otherwise spread throughout the body and you become seriously ill. The technical term for an infection of the whole body is sepsis. Sepsis is life-threatening.

Wounds generally heal more poorly in people who are very overweight, anemic or have an immune deficiency, such as diabetes mellitus, HIV or cancer. Therefore, they have an increased risk of wound infection.

Generally, you should protect the wound from contamination and permanent wetness. As a wound heals, the area may itch uncomfortably. Nevertheless, you should leave the dressing alone if possible. The less you touch the wound, the more likely it is to stay clean and heal faster.

If you or your loved one changes the dressing or bandage in agreement with the doctor, you should always wash your hands thoroughly before and after and disinfect them if necessary. It is best not to touch the wound with your hands. Clean disposable gloves are sometimes helpful. Tie long hair into a braid. This way they do not get into the wound so easily. It is also advisable to use a clean pad when changing the dressing, for example a fresh towel or a disposable pad.

A wound usually heals better when it is not under tension, pressure or traction. Therefore, you should not do any sports or lift anything heavy in the first period after the operation. However, it is usually possible and even recommended that you go for a walk and engage in normal everyday activities.

As a rule, you can shower again 48 hours after the operation if the tap water is clean. There are also waterproof patches. You should refrain from bathing and going to the sauna until the wound has healed completely.

It is especially important that you seek medical advice quickly if you are unsure or if the wound worsens. Waiting is not a good solution here, but quick action is necessary.