First aid: Puncture wounds
A puncture wound doesn't usually cause excessive bleeding. Often the wound seems to close almost instantly. But these features don't mean treatment isn't necessary.
A puncture wound — such as from stepping on a nail — can be dangerous because of the risk of infection. The object that caused the wound may carry spores of tetanus or other bacteria, especially if the object has been exposed to the soil. Puncture wounds resulting from human or animal bites, including those of domestic dogs and cats, may be especially prone to infection. Puncture wounds on the foot also are more vulnerable to infection.
If the bite was deep enough to draw blood and the bleeding persists, seek medical attention. Otherwise, follow these steps:
If the puncture is deep, is in your foot, is contaminated or is the result of an animal or human bite, see your doctor. He or she will evaluate the wound, clean it and, if necessary, close it. If you haven't had a tetanus shot within five years, your doctor may recommend a booster within 48 hours of the injury.
If an animal — especially a stray dog or a wild animal — inflicted the wound, you may have been exposed to rabies. Your doctor may give you antibiotics and suggest initiation of a rabies vaccination series. Report such incidents to county public health officials. If the bite is from someone's pet, it's important to contact the pet owner to confirm the animal's rabies immunization status. If unknown, the animal should be confined for 10 days of observation by a veterinarian.
Last Updated: 2010-01-12
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