Ways to Treat An Infected Wound Naturally and When to Seek Care

However, if a wound does get infected, soap and water alone will no longer work. Before you call the doctor or use a topical antibiotic for a mild skin infection, you may consider trying out natural remedies first.

At this point, though, it’s important to seek medical attention for signs of an infection. Any wound that won’t stop bleeding, has a large amount of pus, or is getting worse in any other way could warrant medical treatment.

Curious about some of the natural remedies currently being touted to treat infected wounds? Read on to learn more about what natural remedies may be used for mild wounds before they get infected, as well as what the science says about their safety and effectiveness.

Natural remedies

While conventional treatments are often the go-to standard in wound care, natural remedies — some of which have been used for centuries — are getting a second look by researchers.

Depending on the substance, these remedies may have antioxidant, anti- inflammatory, or antimicrobial properties.

Natural remedies may be used for minor wounds only. You should never use alternative remedies in lieu of medical attention for severe wounds and infections, and you shouldn’t use the following on open wounds.

1. Aloe vera

Perhaps you’ve used aloe vera in the past for a sunburn, yet the gel-like substance from the leaves of this subtropical plant may be used for other skin problems, too. According to a 2016 research review and a 2012 research review, aloe vera has both antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects, and may also speed up skin tissue healing.

Among the uses for aloe vera include acne, burns, and rashes. It may even decrease pain. You may apply aloe vera throughout the day as needed.

2. Honey

Honey is one of the most widely studied natural remedies by clinical researchers, according to a 2012 research review. It may help heal minor wounds to prevent infections, and is sometimes applied as an alternative to bandages and other skin dressings. Some traditional dressings may also be infused with honey, according to a 2016 research review.

3. Lavender oil

A 2018 research review showed that lavender, particularly in essential oil form, may speed up wound healing and also provide antimicrobial and antibacterial effects. As with any essential oil, it’s important to dilute it first with a carrier, such as jojoba, olive, or almond oil.

4. Marigold

A 2016 research review showed that during in vitro studies, marigold (calendula) stimulated collagen, as well as antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activity.

Marigold may be available in ointments, or you may apply brewed tea bags to the wound. You may consider doing a patch test beforehand if you have a ragweed allergy.

5. Turmeric paste

Turmeric contains a natural anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial component called curcumin, which may help skin wounds heal when applied topically. A 2018 research review also found that turmeric may even possess anti-infectious components.

However, while turmeric has been widely studied in animals, there’s a lack of human studies that have looked at its role in wounds, according to a 2012 research review. Also, you should not take turmeric supplements by mouth, as these could lead to bleeding risks.

6. Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic that may also treat skin inflammation. However, tea tree oil based products can not be used for burns. You may apply diluted tea tree essential oil, or products containing this oil, to your skin up to two times daily.

7. Topical vitamin E

Primarily known as an antioxidant, vitamin E also has anti-inflammatory properties that may help with the wound healing process and prevent further tissue damage. Coconut oil is one form of vitamin E, but you may also find topical formulas at your local pharmacy.

What doesn’t work

Not all herbs and other natural remedies are known to help treat infected wounds. In particular, you should be cautious with the following remedies that may be touted online:

  • turmeric taken by mouth
  • other oral supplements, including essential oils, especially if you have an underlying medical condition
  • St. John’s wort — while a 2018 research review showed that it may promote wound healing, there’s also evidence that this herbal remedy may interact with numerous medications and also increase sensitivity to the sun

Clinical treatments

If natural remedies aren’t helping your wound heal, you may consider moving on to over-the-counter (OTC) clinical treatments. Options may include:

  • sterile bandages to help cover cuts
  • petroleum jelly, when applied throughout the day, may promote healing and prevent scars
  • OTC topical antibiotics
  • acetaminophen (Tylenol) to help alleviate pain

Also, if your wound was made by a rusty object, check with a medical professional to make sure you’re up-to-date on your tetanus vaccine boosters.

Depending on the severity of the infection, your doctor may also recommend:

  • oral antibiotics
  • fluid drainage
  • topical antibiotic washes or solutions
  • corticosteroids for inflammation
  • hospitalization (for severe infections only)

What not to do

Natural remedies are gaining popularity due in part to concerns over an increased rate of antibiotic resistance, according to a 2014 research review.

While you may use an OTC antibacterial ointment for an infected wound, these types of products may not be necessary for noninfected ones.

You also should avoid using rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide on both infected and noninfected wounds. Such products may be too drying, and can hinder your skin’s healing process.

When to seek care

In general, a minor wound may take up to a week to heal. If your wound doesn’t look any better within a week of using natural or home remedies, you should call a health professional.

You should also seek immediate medical care for infected wounds that:

  • are producing more pus or discharge — especially if the wound oozes a yellow or green color, or is foul-smelling
  • are becoming red or discolored, and inflamed or swollen
  • feel warm to the touch
  • are increasing in pain
  • have red or discolored streaks emitting from the center, and growing
  • are accompanied by a fever or chills

As a rule of thumb, the American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends that you seek medical care for cuts that are larger than 3/4 inches or if they’re 1/4 inches deep or more. Also, if you have a cut with edges far apart that don’t seem to come together during the healing process, you may require stitches.

Wounds that won’t stop bleeding warrant emergency medical attention, as well as those caused by animal bites.

The bottom line

When you get an occasional cut, scrape, or any other type of wound, prompt treatment is important to help prevent an infection. There are some natural remedies that can both prevent and treat infections, but you should talk with a medical professional before using them for the first time.

It’s also crucial to know when it’s best to skip the home remedies and to seek medical treatment instead. This includes any wound that won’t stop bleeding, is large or deep, or is showing signs of a serious infection. When in doubt, it’s always best to call a medical professional.

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