Top of the pageCheck Your Symptoms
A puncture wound is a forceful injury caused by a sharp, pointed object that penetrates the skin. A puncture wound is usually narrower and deeper than a cut or scrape. Many people accidentally get puncture wounds with household or work items, yard tools, or when operating machinery. Most puncture wounds are minor, and home treatment is usually all that is needed.
Sharp objects, such as nails, tacks, ice picks, knives, teeth, and needles, can all cause puncture wounds. Puncture wounds increase your risk of infection because they are hard to clean and provide a warm, moist place for bacteria to grow. The bacteria Pseudomonas are a common cause of infections when a puncture wound occurs through the sole of an athletic shoe.
Some punctures are done for health reasons. For example, a puncture may be used by a doctor to draw blood or to give fluid or medicines directly into a vein (intravenous, or IV).
Health professionals have an increased risk of needle-stick injuries. A puncture from a used needle increases the risk of infection or for transmitting a blood-borne disease, such as hepatitis or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Home treatment may be all that is needed for puncture wounds from clean needles.
When you have a puncture wound:
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Symptoms of infection may include:
Pain in adults and older children
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
With severe bleeding, any of these may be true:
With moderate bleeding, any of these may be true:
With mild bleeding, any of these may be true:
You may need a tetanus shot depending on how dirty the wound is and how long it has been since your last shot.
Symptoms of difficulty breathing can range from mild to severe. For example:
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Put direct, steady pressure on the wound until help arrives. Keep the area raised if you can.
Minor puncture wounds can be treated effectively at home. If you do not have an increased risk of infection, you do not have other injuries, and you do not need a tetanus shot or treatment by a doctor, you can treat a puncture wound at home. Home treatment can prevent infection and promote healing.
It is recommended that everyone use blood and body fluid precautions with first aid treatment.
After you have stopped the bleeding, check your symptoms to determine if and when you need to see your doctor.
Clean the wound as soon as possible to reduce the chance of infection, scarring, and tattooing of the skin from dirt left in the wound. (If dirt or other debris is not removed from a puncture wound, the new skin will heal over it. The dirt can then be seen through the skin and may look like a tattoo.)
Most puncture wounds heal well and don't need a bandage. You may need to protect the puncture wound from dirt and irritation. Be sure to clean the wound thoroughly before bandaging it to reduce the risk of infection occurring under the bandage.
Puncture wounds are less likely than cuts to need stitches, staples or skin adhesives.
Elevate the injured area on pillows anytime you are sitting or lying down. Try to keep the area at or above the level of your heart to reduce swelling.
Try a non-prescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a non-prescription medicine:
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
To prevent puncture wounds, be sure to practice safety when using blunt or sharp objects.
Be sure to have a tetanus shot every 10 years.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
Current as ofSeptember 23, 2018
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: September 23, 2018
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2019 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.