How to knew if your stitches are infected

Stitches, or sutures, bind together to heal the edges of a wound and avoid further bleeding. They can sometimes get infected though.

Many infected stitch signs exacerbate pain, redness, swelling and pus around the wound.

In this post, we go into more depth on the symptoms of infected stitches. We also discuss the available treatment choices, and how to prevent infection.

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Symptoms

The skin acts as a shield to protect against animals being poisoned. When an injury or incision splits in the skin, bacteria may invade the wound, leading to inflammation or infection of the tissues.

Infection signs include redness, swelling, warmth at the infected site, fever, pain, swollen and tender lymph nodes.

A person with infected stitches could have:

  • redness or red streaks around the area
  • tender and swollen lymph nodes closest to the location of the stitches
  • pain when they touch the stitches or move the injured area
  • swelling, a feeling of warmth, or pain on or around the stitches
  • yellow or green drainage coming from the wound
  • a bad smell coming from the repaired area

Risk factors

A person may have a higher risk of developing an infection if they:

  • have overweight
  • smoke
  • have a compromised immune system
  • have diabetes

Complications

A individual must seek medical assistance at the first sign of an infection. This infection will result, without treatment, in:

Necrotizing fasciitis

The most common cause of necrotizing fasciitis according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is group A Streptococcus bacteria.

Although this bacterial infection is serious, it is rare.

Early symptoms include:

  • fever
  • severe pain
  • red, swollen, and warm skin in the affected area

If doctors do not treat it in time, later symptoms include:

  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • pus
  • ulcers, black spots, or blisters on a person’s skin

Treatment requires surgery and antibiotics. If the antibiotics do not reach all areas of the infection, a surgeon may need to do a procedure to remove the skin that is dead.

Sepsis

A further risk of an infected wound is sepsis. This occurs when the body is getting an extreme response to an infection.

Symptoms include:

  • increased heart rate
  • fever
  • chills and shivering
  • disorientation
  • severe pain
  • shortness of breath
  • clammy skin

Treatment includes taking antibiotics and treating the infected area.

When to see a doctor

A person should seek medical help if:

  • the wound reopens
  • they develop a fever
  • the wound becomes red and swollen
  • the wound looks the same 5 days after getting the stitches
  • the stitches come out before they should
  • pus and oozing increase

Treatment

A tetanus shot could be sufficient, depending on how the wound occurred.

Treating infected stitches depends on how bad the infection is. A health care professional should disinfect the area and remove any pus present.

For stitches that are mildly infected or only involve the skin’s outer layer, a person can treat the infection using prescription antibiotic cream.

If the infection has spread further below the stitches, oral antibiotics may be prescribed by a doctor.

A person contracting a severe infection may need to be hospitalized for special care and intravenous medicines.

How to care for stitches and prevent infection

Healthcare professionals will in most cases cover stitched wounds with an antibiotic ointment and a bandaid or non-stick gauze.

A person will need to look after the stitches and the wound site to avoid developing an infection.

They are able to do this through:

  • keeping the stitches covered and dry for the first 24 hours
  • cleaning the stitches gently with mild soap and water
  • avoiding perfumed soaps, alcohol wipes, iodine, and peroxide
  • patting the area dry gently with a fresh towel after cleaning
  • using only ointments that a healthcare professional has recommended or prescribed
  • refraining from touching or scratching at the stitches
  • avoiding baths, swimming, and other activities that place the stitches underwater
  • avoiding any activity or sport that could cause the stitches to come apart

Below are recommended time frames for suture removal:

AreaTime for removal
Face3–5 days
Scalp7–10 days
Arms7–10 days
Torso — including back, chest, and abdomen10–14 days
Legs10–14 days
Hands and feet10–14 days
Palms and soles14–21 days

Some stitches are absorbable. These stitches dissolve over time and do not need removing.

Summary

Doctors sometimes use stitches to close a wound or an incision.

To help the area recover without getting an infection, a person must keep the stitches clean.

Any patient who has pain, swelling, redness or pus around his or her stitches should see a doctor.

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