Hesperian Health Guides

Deep Wounds

Any deep wounds should be left open to heal. Wounds that are not closed properly can easily become infected. Rough, messy wounds and puncture wounds in particular should be cleaned twice a day with boiled water and kept open, or re‑opened, so they will heal from the inside.

Deep wounds can develop a tetanus infection. Unless the person had a tetanus vaccination within the last 5 years, they will need one now and also an injection of antitetanus immunoglobulin.

If you are not sure whether closing a wound is a good idea, it probably is not.

Never close animal bites, puncture wounds, or rough, messy wounds.

Animal bites

Clean animal bites very well with soap and water for 15 minutes or more. Animal bites are likely to get infected, so give so give amoxicillin with clavulanic acid or another combination of antibiotics for animal bites.

For monkey, bat and raccoon bites, get a rabies vaccination and immunoglobulin immediately. Do the same for dog bites if the dog could have rabies.

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Rabies is deadly. It affects the brain causing signs like confusion or paralysis. Then, in just a few days, the person becomes unconscious leading to death. Following a bite from an animal with rabies, it can take a month or a few months for signs to appear but by then it is too late to treat. If you think rabies is a possibility and do not have rabies vaccine or rabies immunoglobulin, contact your local health authority as soon as possible after the bite.

Even if there is no rabies immunoglobulin available, washing the skin thoroughly right away with soap and repeated rinsing, and giving the series of rabies vaccine as soon as possible can prevent rabies.

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Knife wounds

Deep knife wounds should usually be kept open and cleaned often. Give cloxacillin, clindamycin or cephalexin at any sign of infection.

Knife wounds to the chest or belly can be very dangerous. Get medical help. Know what to do on the way for a knife wound to the chest, or a knife wound to the belly.

Gunshot Wounds

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Get medical help as soon as possible for gunshot wounds. Use direct pressure to stop bleeding. Check both where the bullet entered and where it exited. If there is no exit wound, the bullet may have to be removed.

Gunshot wounds are likely to become infected. In all cases, wash the wound well and give one of these: cloxacillin, clindamycin, or cephalexin.

For a bullet in the head, on the way to get help, raise the head a little with folded blankets or pillows. Cover the wound with a clean bandage.

a bullet hitting a leg bone and cracking it.
If there is any chance that the bullet hit a bone, the bone may be cracked or broken through. Splint the limb and do not use it for several weeks. See about broken bones.
a bullet going through a leg bone and breaking it.

Fish hooks

Step 1: Step 2: Step 3:
Push the hook through the skin so it
pokes out the other side like this:
Cut off the barb or the shank. Pull the rest of the hook out.
hook being pushed through the skin.
cutting off the barb or shank.
rest of the hook ready to pull out.

This page was updated:17 Sep 2020