Health Information and Tools > Patient Care Handouts >  Infection After Surgery: Care Instructions

Main Content

Infection After Surgery: Care Instructions


After surgery, an infection is always possible. It doesn't mean that the surgery didn't go well.

Because an infection can be serious, your doctor has taken steps to manage it.

Your doctor checked the infection and cleaned it if necessary. Your doctor may have made an opening in the area so that the pus can drain out. You may have gauze in the cut so that the area will stay open and keep draining. You may need antibiotics.

You will need to follow up with your doctor to make sure the infection has gone away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Make sure your surgeon knows about the infection, especially if you saw another doctor about your symptoms.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Prop up the area on a pillow anytime you sit or lie down during the next 3 days. Try to keep it above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • Keep the skin clean and dry.
  • You may have a bandage over the cut (incision). A bandage helps the incision heal and protects it. Your doctor will tell you how to take care of this. Keep it clean and dry. You may have drainage from the wound.
  • If your doctor told you how to care for your incision, follow your doctor's instructions. If you did not get instructions, follow this general advice:
    • Wash around the incision with clean water 2 times a day. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs that your infection is getting worse, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness in the area.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the wound.
    • A new or higher fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter C340 in the search box to learn more about "Infection After Surgery: Care Instructions".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.