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Is Your Child Sick?TM

Puncture Wound

Is this your child's symptom?

  • The skin is punctured by a pointed narrow object

Causes of Puncture Wounds

  • Metal: Nail, sewing needle, pin, tack
  • Pencil: Pencil lead is actually graphite (harmless). It is not poisonous lead. Even colored leads are not toxic.
  • Wood: Toothpick

Complications of Puncture Wounds

  • Retained Foreign Body (Object). This happens if part of the sharp object breaks off in the skin. The pain will not go away until it is removed.
  • Wound Infection. This happens in 4% of foot punctures. The main symptom is spreading redness 2 or 3 days after the injury.
  • Bone Infection. If the sharp object also hits a bone, the bone can become infected. Punctures of the ball of the foot are at greatest risk. The main symptoms are increased swelling and pain 2 weeks after the injury.

When to Call for Puncture Wound

When to Call for Puncture Wound

Call 911 Now

  • Deep puncture on the head, neck, chest, back or stomach
  • You think your child has a life-threatening emergency

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • Puncture into a joint
  • Feels like something is still in the wound
  • Won't stand (bear weight or walk) on punctured foot
  • Needlestick from used needle (may have been exposed to another person's blood)
  • Sharp object or setting was very dirty (such as a playground or dirty water)
  • No past tetanus shots
  • Dirt in the wound is not gone after 15 minutes of scrubbing
  • Severe pain and not better 2 hours after taking pain medicine
  • Wound looks infected (spreading redness, red streaks)
  • Fever occurs
  • You think your child has a serious injury
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Last tetanus shot was more than 5 years ago
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Minor puncture wound

Call 911 Now

  • Deep puncture on the head, neck, chest, back or stomach
  • You think your child has a life-threatening emergency

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • Puncture into a joint
  • Feels like something is still in the wound
  • Won't stand (bear weight or walk) on punctured foot
  • Needlestick from used needle (may have been exposed to another person's blood)
  • Sharp object or setting was very dirty (such as a playground or dirty water)
  • No past tetanus shots
  • Dirt in the wound is not gone after 15 minutes of scrubbing
  • Severe pain and not better 2 hours after taking pain medicine
  • Wound looks infected (spreading redness, red streaks)
  • Fever occurs
  • You think your child has a serious injury
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Last tetanus shot was more than 5 years ago
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Minor puncture wound

Care Advice for Puncture Wound

  1. What You Should Know About Puncture Wounds:
    • Most puncture wounds do not need to be seen.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Cleaning the Wound:
    • First wash off the foot, hand or other punctured skin with soap and water.
    • Then soak the puncture wound in warm soapy water for 15 minutes.
    • For any dirt or debris, gently scrub the wound surface back and forth. Use a wash cloth to remove any dirt.
    • If the wound re-bleeds a little, that may help remove germs.
  3. Antibiotic Ointment:
    • Use an antibiotic ointment (such as Polysporin). No prescription is needed.
    • Then, cover with a bandage (such as Band-Aid). This helps to reduce the risk of infection.
    • Re-wash the wound and put on antibiotic ointment every 12 hours.
    • Do this for 2 days.
  4. Pain Medicine:
    • To help with the pain, give an acetaminophen product (such as Tylenol).
    • Another choice is an ibuprofen product (such as Advil).
    • Use as needed.
  5. What to Expect:
    • Puncture wounds seal over in 1 to 2 hours.
    • Pain should go away within 2 days.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Dirt in the wound still there after 15 minutes of scrubbing
    • Pain becomes severe
    • Looks infected (redness, red streaks, pus, fever)
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.

Copyright 2000-2018. Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC.

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