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First Aid: Punctures

A puncture wound is a deep wound caused by a sharp pointed object. This break in the skin is an open door, inviting dirt and germs to enter your body and cause infection. Seek medical help right away for a puncture wound.

Step 1. Clean thoroughly

  • Don't squeeze the wound.

  • If the puncture wound is not severe and does not need medical attention, soak the wound in warm, soapy water to help the injury heal from the inside out.

  • Then cover the wound with a gauze dressing to absorb any drainage and let air in for faster healing.

Step 2. Keep the embedded objects from moving

  • If an object lodges in the body, put pressure around the wound to control bleeding. Wear gloves or use other protection as a barrier between you and any blood.

  • Wrap gauze or cloth around the object to hold it steady. Tape the wrapping in place.

  • Don't increase the risk of internal bleeding by trying to remove an embedded object.

Call 911

Call 911 right away if the victim has any of the following:

  • Uncontrollable bleeding

  • Symptoms of shock:

    • Pale or clammy skin

    • Pulse that is so light or races so fast that you can’t count the beats

    • Victim is confused or unable to concentrate or stares blankly. Over time, the victim may even become unconscious.

  • A large object such as a knife is embedded in the body

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider or seek medical attention right away if any of these occur:

  • The wound covers a large area or is deep.

  • The ear or eye is punctured.

  • An object such as a nail remains lodged in the body.

  • The injury is on the face or any area where scarring is a concern.

  • The person needs protection against tetanus. This is a disease caused by bacteria that may enter any break in the skin and bring on a life-threatening illness called lockjaw. The body’s defenses may need a booster injection if it’s been more than five years since the last tetanus vaccine.

Online Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Godsey
Online Medical Reviewer: Eric Perez MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 10/1/2019
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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