Before the age of modern medications and technology, one of the biggest killers of man was infection. Even the smallest cut can cause an infection, so it cannot be overstated how important it is for any kind of an injury sustained in a survival situation to receive immediate and careful attention, especially since you likely don’t have access to modern medicines and technologies.
To put this into perspective, if you trip and fall and receive a scrape to your knee or elbow, it may seem like nothing more than an annoyance now, but if it goes without treatment a serious life-threatening infection could potentially set in. That’s why it’s so important for you to immediately tend to any kind of a minor scrape that you or anyone in your survival group receives. The good news is that if you do tend to your scrape and keep it under management, you stand a much greater chance of survival.
In this article, we will cover how you can treat scrapes for infections, starting with an understanding of how an open would stands a significant chance of becoming infected in the first place.
How Can A Simple Scrape Become Infected?
The reason why open wounds are weak points for infection is because the protective barrier of skin is ripped open and the flesh underneath is exposed. The inside parts of your body are almost completely unprotected from bacteria and pathogens.Your body can receive these bacteria in a number of different ways. They can come from dirt or outside debris that gets in, from a knife or another sharp object that caused the injury, or even from floating around in the air. It’s possible for the deadliest of bacteria to get into the smallest of cuts or the lightest of scrapes, which is why even the simplest of scrapes must be treated.
How Can You Tell If Your Scrape Is Infected?
You can generally tell if your scrape has become infected with something based on the following systems:
- Discoloration on the open flesh: even a slight discoloration such as a slightly darker redness can be a sign of infection
- Fever: a fever is the result of the body’s natural reaction to increasing its inside temperature to try and kill the bacteria.
- Inflammation: this is also a natural response of the body to an infection, where it slows blood flow to the affected area and causes that area to swell.
- Pus: that yellow/green pus that can come out of an open would is an attempt by the body to collect the bacteria; the pus will need to be drained immediately so that it carries much of the bacteria with it.
It’s hard to think that the smallest scrape on your knee can lead to a disease as serious as gangrene, but it can happen. That’s why you can never be too careful.
Next, we’ll discuss how you can treat a scrape, followed with a discussion on how you can treat an infection that results from that scrape.
Treating The Scrape
If an open wound is small enough, it will not need stitches and can heal easily on its own. You’d actually be amazed at how effective the human body is at healing on its own. A scrape definitely falls into the category of a small wound, at least the overwhelming majority of ‘scrapes’ do, so closing the wound via suturing is not necessary for treatment here.
The best way to treat the scrape will be to clean it and then dress/bandage it. A mix of clean water with hydrogen peroxide or alcohol works the best, but if you lack either of these, then just clean water will work. Never clean a scrape or open wound of any kind with dirty water, because it can potentially cause more outside debris to get into the wound, which only increases the odds of infection. Boil, purify, and/or filter your water before using it for treating a scrape.
Once you’ve flushed out the wound with open water, it’s time to dress it. If the scrape is quite small, then only a simple bandage out of your first aid kit will be enough to keep it from getting infected by your environment. For a larger scrape, however, you’ll need something like sterile gauze pads, bandanas, or cloths.
Dampen your first gauze pad or cloth and then set this directly over the scrape. This gauze pad or cloth must be completely clean to prevent infection, so a dirty rag you have in your survival pack won’t work.
Then, apply a dry cloth around the first. Ideally, this dry cloth should be a little larger than the first cloth, and it must also be clean. Secure the cloth either by tying or taping it. The entire scrape must be completely covered.
Treating An Infection
Check on your scrape at least once or twice every day, and look for visible signs of infection such as discoloration. If the scrape does not heal in a few days, apply antibiotic treatment if you have it, or re-clean and re-dress the wound. Monitoring your wound is imperative for the next few days, and you should avoid overexertion and get plenty of rest so that your body has the best chance of avoiding or overcoming any kind of an infection.
If treated right, your wound will heal naturally and any kind of an infection that develops will be overcome. If the scrape becomes worse and dead flesh appears, you’ll need to open the wound up and expose it to the flies for at least a day. Wait for the maggots to eat the dead flesh before flushing them out with water and then redressing the wound; the scrape should heal naturally afterwards. But since it’s a simple scrape, there likely won’t be any need for this.
Once you make it out to safety, have a medical professional evaluate your scrape and treat any remaining symptoms that you have.