Health conditions

Wounds

What is a wound?

A wound is any damage or break in the surface of the skin. 

Types of wounds

  • Acute - wounds that can include minor cuts, lacerations, bites, abrasions and surgical wounds.
  • Chronic – wounds that can become slow to heal including ulcers on the legs and feet.

Signs of infection

Without correct first aid, some wounds can become easily infected. Signs of an infected wound are:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • heat
  • redness
  • wound drainage or pus
  • odour
  • fever.

First aid for wounds

Applying appropriate first aid to a wound can speed up the healing process and reduce the risk of infection.

See first aid for wounds.

Healing of wounds

Wounds heal at different rates, and may depend on a number of factors such as:  

  • general state of health
  • age - older skin repairs itself at a slower rate than younger skin
  • pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes
  • some types of vascular disease, immune diseases and cancer
  • diet - skin needs good nutrition to repair
  • stress and wellbeing
  • medications – some may slow healing (discuss with doctor or pharmacist)
  • further trauma to the wound, such as friction/rubbing or pressure
  • smoking
  • alcohol excess
  • whether or not the wound becomes infected.

Most minor acute wounds heal well and can be managed at home with appropriate first aid.

Where to get help

See your doctor or nurse if the wound:

  • shows signs of infection
  • continues to bleed
  • if you are unable to realign the skin
  • has dirt, glass, a thorn or other foreign body in the wound
  • seems large or deep
  • is not healing, or is very slow to heal (e.g. not healed after 4 weeks).

Or if:

  • you have an underlying medical condition
  • you have another injury or hit your head at the time of the injury (you may have a concussion or fracture)
  • there is a risk of further injury
  • you are unsure how to manage the wound, or have any concerns.

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

Find information about safety and first aid.