Infected cut – how to tell

Key points about how to tell if a cut is infected

  • It’s common to cut, scrape or graze your skin.
  • While most minor wounds heal themselves, sometimes they don’t.
  • If a wound gets infected, it can lead to complications and, in some cases, be life threatening.
  • Doctors will usually prescribe a course of antibiotics for an infected wound.
  • Here are some common signs of an infection that mean medical attention is needed immediately:
Closeup of boy's grazed knee
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It’s normal to initially see some swelling around a wound. However, if the swelling gets worse or doesn’t go down, it could be a sign of an infection.


A wound can be a bit red for a few days after the injury has occurred, but if the redness persists it may be infected.

Red streak

If you notice red streaks around the wound or a red streak spreading outwards from the wound, seek medical attention straight away, as this is a sign of an infection that could potentially be life threatening.


If the wound is oozing pus or any other discoloured substance, it’s infected. Also, if there is a gross smell, that is a sign to get it seen by a doctor or nurse.


If you develop a fever it could mean your wound is infected. Also, although it’s normal for the skin surrounding a wound to feel warm, if it doesn’t cool down or if it gets hotter, this is also a sign that it could be infected.

Feeling unwell

If you’re feeling generally unwell, tired or not yourself, it could mean you’re fighting an infection. Nausea or diarrhoea can be further indications of an infection.


It’s normal for a wound to hurt initially and then for the pain to gradually disappear. However, if the pain stays the same or gets worse it could be a sign of infection.

Restricted movement

You may initially have restricted movement near the wound due to pain or swelling. But if you continue to be unable to move the wounded area, then it may be infected.

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