by Derek Benoit June 23rd, 2021 (updated July 4th, 2021)
It happens… a hook, fillet or skinning knife somehow, some way, manages to put a hole in your skin. Maybe you were putting up a tree stand and dinged your knuckles turning a bolt. Perhaps you were booking it up a hill after an elk or mulie and took a digger, skinning a knee or elbow. It doesn’t matter how it happened. You’ve compromised your skin, risking an infection. An adhesive bandage and ointment may not be enough. Here are signs of infection telling you it’s time to be seen by a medical professional immediately.
General Signs of Infection
- Fever – by thermometer or feeling chilled
- Tiredness-feeling more wiped out than seems appropriate to the situation
- Vomiting or feeling nauseated
- Headache occurring with combinations of the above (Mayo Clinic, 2021)
Symptoms of Skin Infections
- Area around the wound is red, or red and spreading in coverage
- Discharge of pus from wound
- Fever – by the thermometer or feeling chilled
- Formation of a red streak – this is BAD… the infection may be in your blood stream
- Area of wound feels warmer than surrounding skin
- Area around the wound is tender, painful (Healthline, 2018, Mayo Clinic, 2021)
- Lymph nodes of the neck, arm pits, or groin are swollen
- Wound is difficult to heal
- Wound produces a funky smell (Mayo Clinic, 2021)
Skin infections can take hold in any cut, scrape, splinter wound, or broken blister. Hence, paying attention to common wound sites like hands or feet is critical. For blister care and prevention ideas, see our latest on how to avoid killing your feet here:
As you can clearly see, the common theme of skin infection warning signs is “something is CLEARLY off…” nonetheless, some people will try to ignore such warning signs, despite the likely discomfort. Likewise, there’s the “I’ll get it looked at later” crowd. To summarize the extensive risk these gamblers are taking, let’s explore the consequences:
The Dangers of Skin Infections
SEPTICEMIA: this is an infection of the blood stream proper, otherwise known as blood poisoning. The infection started elsewhere and hitched a ride… toward the major organ systems. Do NOT mess around. Get to a hospital, NOW (O’Connel, 2018).
Further Down the Infection Rabbit Hole
SEPSIS: this is potentially life threatening and a medical emergency. Do NOT screw around or wait. If these symptoms are present, go to the emergency room, or get evacuated ASAP. Waiting could kill you.
What IS Sepsis?
Sespsis is a state of infection-induced organ damage, caused by septicemia. The infection becomes so extensive that the body’s immune response becomes hyperactive. As a result, a chain reaction occurs that damages organs and tissues.
- *LOW body temperature-rare but possible
- Skin cool, moist, and/or pale (Hills, 2021)
- You have, or suspect you have an infection
- Difficulty breathing
- Alteration of mental state or awareness
- Discolorations of the skin
- Decreased urine production – you notice you’re running dry
- Low systolic blood pressure (the numerator of your BP) 100 mm Hg or less results in light headedness or weakness (O’Connel, 2018, Mayo Clinic, 2021)
***VISUAL Cues to Sepsis***
- Infection visibly spreading (redness, swelling, etc.)
- Rash across the body
- Red streaks in any area, especially in near-surface blood vessels
- Red, brown, or purple spots on the skin
As a result of sepsis, the body can develop a secondary condition called septic shock.
What IS Septic Shock?
Septic shock is a major drop in blood pressure that reduces blood flow and decreasing oxygen to the internal organs. As a result, they incur further damage or shut down. Acute heart, liver, and kidney failure often result.
Symptoms of Septic Shock
- Severe drop in systolic blood pressure; medication required to stay above 65 mg Hg; you’re close to or actually passing out
- You feel lactic acid burn in your muscles. Without treatment, it just keeps getting more intense. (Mayo Clinic, 2021)
Clearly this article is intended to generate a sense of urgency when a wound shows signs of turning for the worse. Hopefully, you’ll never see any visible signs of infection after giving yourself an owie. If you do, be smart. Don’t wait. Don’t tough it out. Get it taken care of ASAP by your doctor. If you’re really feeling bad, skip the doctor’s office and go straight to urgent care or the emergency room! Stay safe, and be well! Happy fishing, and good hunting!
Hills, Jenny. (2021). Blood Poisoning-Signs and Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore. Healthy and Natural World. Health. Healthyand Naturalworld.com. https://www.healthyandnaturalworld.com/blood-poisoning-signs-and-symptoms/
O’Connel, Krista. Reviewed by Sullivan, Debra, Ph.D, MSN, R.N., C.N.E., C.O.I (updated August 31st, 2018). Health. Sepsis. Healthline.com https://www.healthline.com/health/signs-of-infection#signs-of-infection
O’Connel, Krista. Reviewed by Seladi-Shulman, Jill, Ph.D. (reviewed December 5th, 2018). Health. Septicemia. Healthline.com. https://www.healthline.com/health/septicemia
Mayo Clinic Staff (no author). (2021). Patient Care & Health Information. Diseases and Conditions. Sepsis. The Mayo Clininc. Mayoclinic.org. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sepsis/symptoms-causes/syc-20351214