Tag Archives: Cellulitis

Straight, No Chaser: Questions About Abscesses (Boils)

Whether you call them boils, pus pockets or abscesses, they hurt. Abscesses are infections that localize and collect pus beneath the skin. Although previous Straight, No Chaser posts have addressed MRSA, this one will highlight your frequently asked questions about abscesses.

 abscess1

Why do I get an abscess?
Something causes an injury or sufficient irritation to your skin to allow bacteria to enter, and/or your lowered immunity can’t adequately fight back. Examples of circumstances causing skin infections that can develop into abscesses include ingrown hairs (folliculitis), insect bites and IV drug use. You are at increased risk for developing an abscess if you have diabetes, are obese, use IV drugs, have a weakened immune system or have an untreated skin infection (cellulitis).

 Abscess2

What causes abscesses?
Bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus (Staph) and Streptococcus are common causes of abscesses. I’ll remind you that MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staph Aureus; this is an indication that traditionally used antibiotics don’t work against this particular strain of bacteria. MRSA should be a reminder of the dangers of inappropriate antibiotic use.

 abscess3

How do I know if I have an abscess?
Trust me. You’ll know. Typically you’ll develop a skin infection first, which could simply include pus-filled bumps that worsen to become red, warm, swollen and tender. You may develop a fever, and you will have a significant amount of pain.
Can I treat these at home?
Generally not unless you’re a physician or have access to one at home… What you can do is prevent them. Stop picking at your skin; in fact, learn to keep your hands off your skin. Use clean equipment (e.g. razors, clippers) if you shave hair from your skin.
In terms of treating abscesses at home, it is not advisable for you to attempt to cut yourself or otherwise deal with these once one has formed. Abscesses often have deep tracks under the skin that need to be explored. Whatever you’re doing to delay getting evaluated is increasing the risk that things will worsen.

abscess i&D abscess gauze

So how are abscesses treated?
There are two approaches to treating abscesses: “from the inside out” and “from the outside in.”

  • From the inside out refers to receiving antibiotics. Most abscess do respond promptly to antibiotics if you don’t wait too long to get them treated.
  • From the outside in refers to a procedure called incision and drainage (I & D). You’ll recognize this as your physician having to cut open the abscess, clean the area out and place gauze in the wound for a few days. Doing this in most cases eliminates the need to also take antibiotics. Unfortunately, I & Ds often must be done on higher risk abscesses, and in some instances, it’s necessary to have it done by a surgeon.

When should I see a doctor for one of these?
These generally aren’t getting better on their own. In particular, if you have one of the risk factors previously mentioned (diabetes, IV drug use, obesity, decreased immunity), the abscess is on or near your genitalia, is spreading fast or is extremely painful, you should be seen sooner rather than later.

Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Take the #72HoursChallenge, and join the community. As a thank you for being a valued subscriber to Straight, No Chaser, we’d like to offer you a complimentary 30-day membership at www.72hourslife.com. Just use the code #NoChaser, and yes, it’s ok if you share!
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new books There are 72 Hours in a Day: Using Efficiency to Better Enjoy Every Part of Your Life and The 72 Hours in a Day Workbook: The Journey to The 72 Hours Life in 72 Days at Amazon or at www.72hourslife.com. Receive introductory pricing with orders!
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2018 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: Human Bites

fight-bite

I have had weird experiences with humans biting humans, as have most physicians. There are several different types of human bites, which can range from harmless to surgically serious. However, as an emergency physician, knowing the dangers of the bacteria inhabiting your mouth, I tend to assume the worst until proven otherwise. Your first quick tip is to do the same.

fight bite infected

Maybe it’s where I’m located, but I tend to see way more “fight bites” than anything else; these specifically refer to someone getting hit in the mouth. It’s always interesting to see the guy who “won” the fight being the one who has to come in for medical treatment. He cut his hand on someone’s tooth and really doesn’t think much of it. He just wants the laceration sewn. Little does he realize, the structures in the hand (tendons, blood vessels, muscles, and bones) are highly concentrated. He also doesn’t know that they are confined to a very limited space and seeding an infection in that tight space makes things really bad really quick. This guy is very dangerous because he tends to deny ever getting into the fight, ascribing the injury to something else (like punching a tree)—at least until I ask him why a tooth is inside his hand.

tysonbite

Then there’s the “Yes, he bit me” variety, where the teeth were the aggressor that engaged the victim instead of the fist engaging the tooth. Think of the Tyson vs. Holyfield bite as an example. Sometimes parts get bitten off (fingers, nose, ears, and other unmentionables)! Children, as another example, sometimes bite and need to learn to stop that behavior. Biting is sometimes seen in sexual assault, physical abuse, self-mutilation, or with mentally handicapped individuals.

human-vampires-bite--large-msg-135111099475

A third type is the ‘We love too much!’ variety of bites. These may include hickeys that actually break the skin. Other examples of “friendly” bites are folks biting off their hangnails, fingernails, and toenails and create skin infections. Yes, it happens more than you’d think, and no, you don’t have to be a vampire.
The commonality to all of these scenarios is saliva that found its way through the skin. Because of the virulence of the bacteria contained within the saliva, an infection will be forthcoming. You’ll know soon enough when the redness, warmth, tenderness, fever, and possible pus from the wound develop.
The easy recommendation to make is anytime a wound involving someone’s mouth breaks your skin, get evaluated. Some wounds are much more dangerous than others. Teeth get dislodged into wounds, hand tendons get cut, bones get broken, and serious infections develop. In fact, these bites require immunization for tetanus.
Bottom line: There’s no reason not to get evaluated if you develop those signs of infection, if any injury to your hand occurs, or if any breakage of your skin has occurred. You’ll need antibiotics and wound cleaning in all probability, with a tetanus shot if you’re not up to date. If you’re unlucky, you may end up in the operating room.

human-bite

So here’s your duty if you haven’t successfully avoided the bite:
1) At home, only clean the open wound by running water over the area. Avoid the home remedies like peroxide, alcohol, and anything else that burns. Those agents make things worse by damaging the skin more than they “clean” the area.
2) Apply ice—never directly to the wound—but in a towel. Use for 15 minutes on and then 15 minutes off.
3) Retrieve any displaced skin tissue, place it in a bag of cold water, place that bag on ice, and bring it with you. We’ll decide if it’s salvageable.
4) Get in to be evaluated. Be forthcoming about whether or not it was a bite.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Take the #72HoursChallenge, and join the community. As a thank you for being a valued subscriber to Straight, No Chaser, we’d like to offer you a complimentary 30-day membership at www.72hourslife.com. Just use the code #NoChaser, and yes, it’s ok if you share!
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new books There are 72 Hours in a Day: Using Efficiency to Better Enjoy Every Part of Your Life and The 72 Hours in a Day Workbook: The Journey to The 72 Hours Life in 72 Days at Amazon or at www.72hourslife.com. Receive introductory pricing with orders!
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2018 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: Step on a Nail? What Happens Next?

StepOnNail

What would you do if you stepped on a nail? What if the nail was rusty? Does it make a difference if you were wearing shoes? Is stepping on a nail dangerous? Why does everyone pronounce tetanus “teknus?” For the answers to these questions (well maybe not the last one) and more, read the rest of this Straight, No Chaser!
It’s an interesting thing that so many nails are allowed to stay on the ground until they become rusty. One would think either they’d be picked up or that you wouldn’t be walking around barefooted in unknown areas. We’ve discussed puncture wounds previously, and stepping on a nail is an example of a puncture wound. However, there are some important considerations that make it worthwhile to discuss.

 footnail

What should you do if you step on a nail?
Assuming the nail isn’t stuck in your feet, clean your foot vigorously. If the nail is superficially struck in your foot, it’s likely you will have reflexively yanked it out. That’s ok as long as the wound isn’t significantly bleeding at the time.
It’s prudent that you call your physician for next instructions, but in most cases you’ll be directed to come to the emergency room.

 foot_nail-350

What’s the issue?
There is no one issue. There are several potentially significant consequences of stepping on a nail.

  • If the skin was sliced instead of punctured, that’s a laceration, which will need to be addressed.
  • It makes a huge difference if you were wearing shoes or not, and not in the way you might think. Stepping on a rusty nail is a much more dangerous proposition if you did so while wearing rubber soles. One of the more dangerous bacteria we have to deal with (named Pseudomonas) thrives in rubber. The puncture from grass or ground through the sole of a rubber shoe into your foot may plant this bacteria superficially or deeply into your foot, causing one (or several) of many different types of infections.
  • Rusty nails can produce tetanus, which is almost always fatal. This is why you get immunized at least every decade for this disease. You wouldn’t want your worse enemy to suffer a death from tetanus (at least I’d hope not).

 foot infection from nail

What kind of infections can you get from this?
Skin infections are common after puncture wounds involving nails, and can include the following:

  • Cellulitis – a straightforward infection of the skin
  • Abscesses – those walled-off “pus pockets” that sometimes require incision and drainage to make it go away
  • Osteomyelitis – the bones deeper into the foot can actually become chipped and/or infected as well

These are significant wounds, especially if rubber soles are involved, and they may even require surgery to clean the area. In some instances (especially when you have certain risk factors) skin ulcerations (breakdown of the skin) can occur, making severe infection more likely. In some of these instances, foot amputation is necessary.
In addition to wearing rubber-soled shoes at the time of the injury, these other conditions place you at risk for a worse outcome.

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Malnutrition
  • Reduced immunity
  • Smoking history

The infections associated with nail-induced puncture wounds are potentially serious and hard to treat. Patients sometimes end up hospitalized with weeks and sometimes months of treatment with antibiotics.
In case you think the take home message is it’s better not to wear shoes or sandals when walking through the house, grass or sand, you’re partially correct. My best advice to you is look before you weep.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Take the #72HoursChallenge, and join the community. As a thank you for being a valued subscriber to Straight, No Chaser, we’d like to offer you a complimentary 30-day membership at www.72hourslife.com. Just use the code #NoChaser, and yes, it’s ok if you share!
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new books There are 72 Hours in a Day: Using Efficiency to Better Enjoy Every Part of Your Life and The 72 Hours in a Day Workbook: The Journey to The 72 Hours Life in 72 Days at Amazon or at www.72hourslife.com. Receive introductory pricing with orders!
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2018 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: Abscesses (Boils)

Whether you call them boils, pus pockets or abscesses, they hurt. Abscesses are infections that localize and collect pus beneath the skin. Although previous Straight, No Chaser posts have addressed MRSA, this one will highlight your frequently asked questions about abscesses.

 abscess1

Why do I get an abscess?
Something causes an injury or sufficient irritation to your skin to allow bacteria to enter, and/or your lowered immunity can’t adequately fight back. Examples of circumstances causing skin infections that can develop into abscesses include ingrown hairs (folliculitis), insect bites and IV drug use. You are at increased risk for developing an abscess if you have diabetes, are obese, use IV drugs, have a weakened immune system or have an untreated skin infection (cellulitis).

 Abscess2

What causes abscesses?
Bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus (Staph) and Streptococcus are common causes of abscesses. I’ll remind you that MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staph Aureus; this is an indication that traditionally used antibiotics don’t work against this particular strain of bacteria. MRSA should be a reminder of the dangers of inappropriate antibiotic use.

 abscess3

How do I know if I have an abscess?
Trust me. You’ll know. Typically you’ll develop a skin infection first, which could simply include pus-filled bumps that worsen to become red, warm, swollen and tender. You may develop a fever, and you will have a significant amount of pain.
Can I treat these at home?
Generally not unless you’re a physician or have access to one at home… What you can do is prevent them. Stop picking at your skin; in fact, learn to keep your hands off your skin. Use clean equipment (e.g. razors, clippers) if you shave hair from your skin.
In terms of treating abscesses at home, it is not advisable for you to attempt to cut yourself or otherwise deal with these once one has formed. Abscesses often have deep tracks under the skin that need to be explored. Whatever you’re doing to delay getting evaluated is increasing the risk that things will worsen.

abscess i&D abscess gauze

So how are abscesses treated?
There are two approaches to treating abscesses: “from the inside out” and “from the outside in.”

  • From the inside out refers to receiving antibiotics. Most abscess do respond promptly to antibiotics if you don’t wait too long to get them treated.
  • From the outside in refers to a procedure called incision and drainage (I & D). You’ll recognize this as your physician having to cut open the abscess, clean the area out and place gauze in the wound for a few days. Doing this in most cases eliminates the need to also take antibiotics. Unfortunately, I & Ds often must be done on higher risk abscesses, and in some instances, it’s necessary to have it done by a surgeon.

When should I see a doctor for one of these?
These generally aren’t getting better on their own. In particular, if you have one of the risk factors previously mentioned (diabetes, IV drug use, obesity, decreased immunity), the abscess is on or near your genitalia, is spreading fast or is extremely painful, you should be seen sooner rather than later.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Take the #72HoursChallenge, and join the community. As a thank you for being a valued subscriber to Straight, No Chaser, we’d like to offer you a complimentary 30-day membership at www.72hourslife.com. Just use the code #NoChaser, and yes, it’s ok if you share!
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new books There are 72 Hours in a Day: Using Efficiency to Better Enjoy Every Part of Your Life and The 72 Hours in a Day Workbook: The Journey to The 72 Hours Life in 72 Days at Amazon or at www.72hourslife.com. Receive introductory pricing with orders!
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2017 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress
 

Straight, No Chaser: Human Bites

fight-bite

I have had weird experiences with humans biting humans, as have most physicians. There are several different types of human bites, which can range from harmless to surgically serious. However, as an emergency physician, knowing the dangers of the bacteria inhabiting your mouth, I tend to assume the worst until proven otherwise. Your first quick tip is to do the same.

fight bite infected

Maybe it’s where I’m located, but I tend to see way more “fight bites” than anything else; these specifically refer to someone getting hit in the mouth. It’s always interesting to see the guy who “won” the fight being the one who has to come in for medical treatment. He cut his hand on someone’s tooth and really doesn’t think much of it. He just wants the laceration sewn. Little does he realize, the structures in the hand (tendons, blood vessels, muscles, and bones) are highly concentrated. He also doesn’t know that they are confined to a very limited space and seeding an infection in that tight space makes things really bad really quick. This guy is very dangerous because he tends to deny ever getting into the fight, ascribing the injury to something else (like punching a tree)—at least until I ask him why a tooth is inside his hand.

tysonbite

Then there’s the “Yes, he bit me” variety, where the teeth were the aggressor that engaged the victim instead of the fist engaging the tooth. Think of the Tyson vs. Holyfield bite as an example. Sometimes parts get bitten off (fingers, nose, ears, and other unmentionables)! Children, as another example, sometimes bite and need to learn to stop that behavior. Biting is sometimes seen in sexual assault, physical abuse, self-mutilation, or with mentally handicapped individuals.

human-vampires-bite--large-msg-135111099475

A third type is the ‘We love too much!’ variety of bites. These may include hickeys that actually break the skin. Other examples of “friendly” bites are folks biting off their hangnails, fingernails, and toenails and create skin infections. Yes, it happens more than you’d think, and no, you don’t have to be a vampire.
The commonality to all of these scenarios is saliva that found its way through the skin. Because of the virulence of the bacteria contained within the saliva, an infection will be forthcoming. You’ll know soon enough when the redness, warmth, tenderness, fever, and possible pus from the wound develop.
The easy recommendation to make is anytime a wound involving someone’s mouth breaks your skin, get evaluated. Some wounds are much more dangerous than others. Teeth get dislodged into wounds, hand tendons get cut, bones get broken, and serious infections develop. In fact, these bites require immunization for tetanus.
Bottom line: There’s no reason not to get evaluated if you develop those signs of infection, if any injury to your hand occurs, or if any breakage of your skin has occurred. You’ll need antibiotics and wound cleaning in all probability, with a tetanus shot if you’re not up to date. If you’re unlucky, you may end up in the operating room.

human-bite

So here’s your duty if you haven’t successfully avoided the bite:
1) At home, only clean the open wound by running water over the area. Avoid the home remedies like peroxide, alcohol, and anything else that burns. Those agents make things worse by damaging the skin more than they “clean” the area.
2) Apply ice—never directly to the wound—but in a towel. Use for 15 minutes on and then 15 minutes off.
3) Retrieve any displaced skin tissue, place it in a bag of cold water, place that bag on ice, and bring it with you. We’ll decide if it’s salvageable.
4) Get in to be evaluated. Be forthcoming about whether or not it was a bite.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Take the #72HoursChallenge, and join the community. As a thank you for being a valued subscriber to Straight, No Chaser, we’d like to offer you a complimentary 30-day membership at www.72hourslife.com. Just use the code #NoChaser, and yes, it’s ok if you share!
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new books There are 72 Hours in a Day: Using Efficiency to Better Enjoy Every Part of Your Life and The 72 Hours in a Day Workbook: The Journey to The 72 Hours Life in 72 Days at Amazon or at www.72hourslife.com. Receive introductory pricing with orders!
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2017 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: Abscesses (Boils)

Abscess

Whether you call them boils, pus pockets or abscesses, they hurt. Abscesses are infections that localize and collect pus beneath the skin. Although previous Straight, No Chaser posts have addressed MRSA, this one will highlight your frequently asked questions about abscesses.

 abscess1

Why do I get an abscess? 
Something causes an injury or sufficient irritation to your skin to allow bacteria to enter, and/or your lowered immunity can’t adequately fight back. Examples of circumstances causing skin infections that can develop into abscesses include ingrown hairs (folliculitis), insect bites and IV drug use. You are at increased risk for developing an abscess if you have diabetes, are obese, use IV drugs, have a weakened immune system or have an untreated skin infection (cellulitis).

 Abscess2

What causes abscesses?
Bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus (Staph) and Streptococcus are common causes of abscesses. I’ll remind you that MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staph Aureus; this is an indication that traditionally used antibiotics don’t work against this particular strain of bacteria. MRSA should be a reminder of the dangers of inappropriate antibiotic use.

 abscess3

How do I know if I have an abscess?
Trust me. You’ll know. Typically you’ll develop a skin infection first, which could simply include pus-filled bumps that worsen to become red, warm, swollen and tender. You may develop a fever, and you will have a significant amount of pain.
Can I treat these at home?
Generally not unless you’re a physician or have access to one at home… What you can do is prevent them. Stop picking at your skin; in fact, learn to keep your hands off your skin. Use clean equipment (e.g. razors, clippers) if you shave hair from your skin.
In terms of treating abscesses at home, it is not advisable for you to attempt to cut yourself or otherwise deal with these once one has formed. Abscesses often have deep tracks under the skin that need to be explored. Whatever you’re doing to delay getting evaluated is increasing the risk that things will worsen.

abscess i&D abscess gauze

So how are abscesses treated?
There are two approaches to treating abscesses: “from the inside out” and “from the outside in.”

  • From the inside out refers to receiving antibiotics. Most abscess do respond promptly to antibiotics if you don’t wait too long to get them treated.
  • From the outside in refers to a procedure called incision and drainage (I & D). You’ll recognize this as your physician having to cut open the abscess, clean the area out and place gauze in the wound for a few days. Doing this in most cases eliminates the need to also take antibiotics. Unfortunately, I & Ds often must be done on higher risk abscesses, and in some instances, it’s necessary to have it done by a surgeon.

When should I see a doctor for one of these?
These generally aren’t getting better on their own. In particular, if you have one of the risk factors previously mentioned (diabetes, IV drug use, obesity, decreased immunity), the abscess is on or near your genitalia, is spreading fast or is extremely painful, you should be seen sooner rather than later.
Feel free to ask any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2016 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: Human Bites

fight-bite

I have had weird experiences with humans biting humans, as have most physicians. There are several different types of human bites, which can range from harmless to surgically serious. However, as an emergency physician, knowing the dangers of the bacteria inhabiting your mouth, I tend to assume the worst until proven otherwise. Your first quick tip is to do the same.

fight bite infected

Maybe it’s where I’m located, but I tend to see way more “fight bites” than anything else; these specifically refer to someone getting hit in the mouth. It’s always interesting to see the guy who “won” the fight being the one who has to come in for medical treatment. He cut his hand on someone’s tooth and really doesn’t think much of it. He just wants the laceration sewn. Little does he realize, the structures in the hand (tendons, blood vessels, muscles, and bones) are highly concentrated. He also doesn’t know that they are confined to a very limited space and seeding an infection in that tight space makes things really bad really quick. This guy is very dangerous because he tends to deny ever getting into the fight, ascribing the injury to something else (like punching a tree)—at least until I ask him why a tooth is inside his hand.

tysonbite

Then there’s the “Yes, he bit me” variety, where the teeth were the aggressor that engaged the victim instead of the fist engaging the tooth. Think of the Tyson vs. Holyfield bite as an example. Sometimes parts get bitten off (fingers, nose, ears, and other unmentionables)! Children, as another example, sometimes bite and need to learn to stop that behavior. Biting is sometimes seen in sexual assault, physical abuse, self-mutilation, or with mentally handicapped individuals.

human-vampires-bite--large-msg-135111099475

A third type is the ‘We love too much!’ variety of bites. These may include hickeys that actually break the skin. Other examples of “friendly” bites are folks biting off their hangnails, fingernails, and toenails and create skin infections. Yes, it happens more than you’d think, and no, you don’t have to be a vampire.
The commonality to all of these scenarios is saliva that found its way through the skin. Because of the virulence of the bacteria contained within the saliva, an infection will be forthcoming. You’ll know soon enough when the redness, warmth, tenderness, fever, and possible pus from the wound develop.
The easy recommendation to make is anytime a wound involving someone’s mouth breaks your skin, get evaluated. Some wounds are much more dangerous than others. Teeth get dislodged into wounds, hand tendons get cut, bones get broken, and serious infections develop. In fact, these bites require immunization for tetanus.
Bottom line: There’s no reason not to get evaluated if you develop those signs of infection, if any injury to your hand occurs, or if any breakage of your skin has occurred. You’ll need antibiotics and wound cleaning in all probability, with a tetanus shot if you’re not up to date. If you’re unlucky, you may end up in the operating room.

human-bite

So here’s your duty if you haven’t successfully avoided the bite:
1) At home, only clean the open wound by running water over the area. Avoid the home remedies like peroxide, alcohol, and anything else that burns. Those agents make things worse by damaging the skin more than they “clean” the area.
2) Apply ice—never directly to the wound—but in a towel. Use for 15 minutes on and then 15 minutes off.
3) Retrieve any displaced skin tissue, place it in a bag of cold water, place that bag on ice, and bring it with you. We’ll decide if it’s salvageable.
4) Get in to be evaluated. Be forthcoming about whether or not it was a bite.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2016 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: Human Bites

fight-bite

I have had weird experiences with humans biting humans, as have most physicians. There are several different types of human bites, which can range from harmless to surgically serious. However, as an emergency physician, knowing the dangers of the bacteria inhabiting your mouth, I tend to assume the worst until proven otherwise. Your first quick tip is to do the same.

fight bite infected

Maybe it’s where I’m located, but I tend to see way more “fight bites” than anything else; these specifically refer to someone getting hit in the mouth. It’s always interesting to see the guy who “won” the fight being the one who has to come in for medical treatment. He cut his hand on someone’s tooth and really doesn’t think much of it. He just wants the laceration sewn. Little does he realize, the structures in the hand (tendons, blood vessels, muscles, and bones) are highly concentrated. He also doesn’t know that they are confined to a very limited space and seeding an infection in that tight space makes things really bad really quick. This guy is very dangerous because he tends to deny ever getting into the fight, ascribing the injury to something else (like punching a tree)—at least until I ask him why a tooth is inside his hand.

tysonbite

Then there’s the “Yes, he bit me” variety, where the teeth were the aggressor that engaged the victim instead of the fist engaging the tooth. Think of the Tyson vs. Holyfield bite as an example. Sometimes parts get bitten off (fingers, nose, ears, and other unmentionables)! Children, as another example, sometimes bite and need to learn to stop that behavior. Biting is sometimes seen in sexual assault, physical abuse, self-mutilation, or with mentally handicapped individuals.

human-vampires-bite--large-msg-135111099475

A third type is the ‘We love too much!’ variety of bites. These may include hickeys that actually break the skin. Other examples of “friendly” bites are folks biting off their hangnails, fingernails, and toenails and create skin infections. Yes, it happens more than you’d think, and no, you don’t have to be a vampire.
The commonality to all of these scenarios is saliva that found its way through the skin. Because of the virulence of the bacteria contained within the saliva, an infection will be forthcoming. You’ll know soon enough when the redness, warmth, tenderness, fever, and possible pus from the wound develop.
The easy recommendation to make is anytime a wound involving someone’s mouth breaks your skin, get evaluated. Some wounds are much more dangerous than others. Teeth get dislodged into wounds, hand tendons get cut, bones get broken, and serious infections develop. In fact, these bites require immunization for tetanus. Bottom line: There’s no reason not to get evaluated if you develop those signs of infection, if any injury to your hand occurs, or if any breakage of your skin has occurred. You’ll need antibiotics and wound cleaning in all probability, with a tetanus shot if you’re not up to date. If you’re unlucky, you may end up in the operating room.

human-bite

So here’s your duty if you haven’t successfully avoided the bite:
1) At home, only clean the open wound by running water over the area. Avoid the home remedies like peroxide, alcohol, and anything else that burns. Those agents make things worse by damaging the skin more than they “clean” the area.
2) Apply ice—never directly to the wound—but in a towel. Use for 15 minutes on and then 15 minutes off.
3) Retrieve any displaced skin tissue, place it in a bag of cold water, place that bag on ice, and bring it with you. We’ll decide if it’s salvageable.
4) Get in to be evaluated. Be forthcoming about whether or not it was a bite.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook @ SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2015 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC

Straight, No Chaser: Abscesses (Boils)

Abscess

Whether you call them boils, pus pockets or abscesses, they hurt. Abscesses are infections that localize and collect pus beneath the skin. Although previous Straight, No Chaser posts have addressed MRSA, this one will highlight your frequently asked questions about abscesses.

 abscess1

Why do I get an abscess?
Something causes an injury or sufficient irritation to your skin to allow bacteria to enter, and/or your lowered immunity can’t adequately fight back. Examples of circumstances causing skin infections that can develop into abscesses include ingrown hairs (folliculitis), insect bites and IV drug use. You are at increased risk for developing an abscess if you have diabetes, are obese, use IV drugs, have a weakened immune system or have an untreated skin infection (cellulitis).

 Abscess2

What causes abscesses?
Bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus (Staph) and Streptococcus are common causes of abscesses. I’ll remind you that MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staph Aureus; this is an indication that traditionally used antibiotics don’t work against this particular strain of bacteria. MRSA should be a reminder of the dangers of inappropriate antibiotic use.

 abscess3

How do I know if I have an abscess?
Trust me. You’ll know. Typically you’ll develop a skin infection first, which could simply include pus-filled bumps that worsen to become red, warm, swollen and tender. You may develop a fever, and you will have a significant amount of pain.
Can I treat these at home?
Generally not unless you’re a physician or have access to one at home… What you can do is prevent them. Stop picking at your skin; in fact, learn to keep your hands off your skin. Use clean equipment (e.g. razors, clippers) if you shave hair from your skin.
In terms of treating abscesses at home, it is not advisable for you to attempt to cut yourself or otherwise deal with these once one has formed. Abscesses often have deep tracks under the skin that need to be explored. Whatever you’re doing to delay getting evaluated is increasing the risk that things will worsen.

abscess i&D abscess gauze

So how are abscesses treated?
There are two approaches to treating abscesses: “from the inside out” and “from the outside in.”

  • From the inside out refers to receiving antibiotics. Most abscess do respond promptly to antibiotics if you don’t wait too long to get them treated.
  • From the outside in refers to a procedure called incision and drainage (I & D). You’ll recognize this as your physician having to cut open the abscess, clean the area out and place gauze in the wound for a few days. Doing this in most cases eliminates the need to also take antibiotics. Unfortunately, I & Ds often must be done on higher risk abscesses, and in some instances, it’s necessary to have it done by a surgeon.

When should I see a doctor for one of these?
These generally aren’t getting better on their own. In particular, if you have one of the risk factors previously mentioned (diabetes, IV drug use, obesity, decreased immunity), the abscess is on or near your genitalia, is spreading fast or is extremely painful, you should be seen sooner rather than later.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what 844-SMA-TALK and http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress. We are also on Facebook at SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and Twitter at @asksterlingmd.

Straight, No Chaser: Step on a Nail? What Happens Next?

StepOnNail

What would you do if you stepped on a nail? What if the nail was rusty? Does it make a difference if you were wearing shoes? Is stepping on a nail dangerous? Why does everyone pronounce tetanus “teknus?” For the answers to these questions (well maybe not the last one) and more, read the rest of this Straight, No Chaser!
It’s an interesting thing that so many nails are allowed to stay on the ground until they become rusty. One would think either they’d be picked up or that you wouldn’t be walking around barefooted in unknown areas. We’ve discussed puncture wounds previously, and stepping on a nail is an example of a puncture wound. However, there are some important considerations that make it worthwhile to discuss.

 footnail

What should you do if you step on a nail?
Assuming the nail isn’t stuck in your feet, clean your foot vigorously. If the nail is superficially struck in your foot, it’s likely you will have reflexively yanked it out. That’s ok as long as the wound isn’t significantly bleeding at the time.
It’s prudent that you call your physician for next instructions, but in most cases you’ll be directed to come to the emergency room.

 foot_nail-350

What’s the issue?
There is no one issue. There are several potentially significant consequences of stepping on a nail.

  • If the skin was sliced instead of punctured, that’s a laceration, which will need to be addressed.
  • It makes a huge difference if you were wearing shoes or not, and not in the way you might think. Stepping on a rusty nail is a much more dangerous proposition if you did so while wearing rubber soles. One of the more dangerous bacteria we have to deal with (named Pseudomonas) thrives in rubber. The puncture from grass or ground through the sole of a rubber shoe into your foot may plant this bacteria superficially or deeply into your foot, causing one (or several) of many different types of infections.
  • Rusty nails can produce tetanus, which is almost always fatal. This is why you get immunized at least every decade for this disease. You wouldn’t want your worse enemy to suffer a death from tetanus (at least I’d hope not).

 foot infection from nail

What kind of infections can you get from this?
Skin infections are common after puncture wounds involving nails, and can include the following:

  • Cellulitis – a straightforward infection of the skin
  • Abscesses – those walled-off “pus pockets” that sometimes require incision and drainage to make it go away
  • Osteomyelitis – the bones deeper into the foot can actually become chipped and/or infected as well

These are significant wounds, especially if rubber soles are involved, and they may even require surgery to clean the area. In some instances (especially when you have certain risk factors) skin ulcerations (breakdown of the skin) can occur, making severe infection more likely. In some of these instances, foot amputation is necessary.
In addition to wearing rubber-soled shoes at the time of the injury, these other conditions place you at risk for a worse outcome.

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Malnutrition
  • Reduced immunity
  • Smoking history

The infections associated with nail-induced puncture wounds are potentially serious and hard to treat. Patients sometimes end up hospitalized with weeks and sometimes months of treatment with antibiotics.
In case you think the take home message is it’s better not to wear shoes or sandals when walking through the house, grass or sand, you’re partially correct. My best advice to you is look before you weep.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what 844-SMA-TALK and http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress. We are also on Facebook at SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and Twitter at @asksterlingmd.

Straight No Chaser: Human Bites

tysonbite
I have had weird experiences with humans biting humans, as have most physicians. There are several different types of human bites, which can range from harmless to surgically serious, but as an emergency physician knowing the dangers of the bacteria inhabiting your mouth, I tend to assume the worst until proven otherwise. Your first Quick Tip is to do the same.
Maybe it’s where I’m located, but I tend to see way more ‘fight bites’ than anything else; these specifically refer to someone getting hit in the mouth. It’s always interesting to see the guy who ‘won’ the fight being the one who has to come in for medical treatment. He will have cut his hand on someone’s tooth and really doesn’t think much of it. He just wants the laceration sewn. Little does he realize how concentrated all of the structures (tendons, blood vessels, muscles and bones) are in the hand. He also doesn’t know that they’re confined to a very limited space, and seeding an infection in that space makes things really bad really quick. These guys are very dangerous because they tend to deny ever getting into the fight, ascribing the injury to something else (like punching a tree) – at least until I ask him why a tooth is inside his hand.
Then there’s the “Yes, I was bitten” variety, including activity where the teeth engaged the victim instead of the fist engaging a tooth. Think of the above Tyson vs. Holyfield bite as an example. Sometimes parts get bitten off (fingers, nose, ears and other unmentionables)! Children sometimes need to learn to stop biting as a behavior. Biting is sometimes seen in sexual assault, physical abuse and in self-mutilating behavior or with mentally handicapped individuals.
A third type is the ‘We love too much!’ variety. These may include hickeys (that actually break the skin), folks biting off their hangnails, and individuals who create skin infections by biting their toenails and fingernails. Yes, it happens more than you’d think.
The commonality to all of these scenarios is saliva found its way through the skin. Because of the virulence of those bacteria contained within, an infection will be forthcoming. You’ll know soon enough when the redness, warmth, tenderness and possibly pus from the wound and fever develop.
The easy recommendation to make is anytime a wound involving someone’s mouth breaks your skin, you need to be evaluated. Some wounds are much more dangerous than others. Teeth get dislodged into wounds, hand tendons get cut, bones get broken, and serious infections develop, and in fact these bites require immunization for tetanus. Bottom line: there’s no reason not to get evaluated if you develop those signs of infection I mentioned, if any injury to your hand occurs, or if any breakage of your skin has occurred. You’ll need antibiotics and wound cleaning in all probability, with a tetanus shot if you’re not up to date. If you’re unlucky, you may end up in the operating room.
So here’s your duty if you haven’t successfully avoided the bite:
1) At home, only clean the open wound by running water over the area. Avoid the home remedies, peroxide, alcohol and anything else that burns. You’re making things worse for yourself (those agents cause skin damage more than they’re ‘cleaning’ the area).
2) Apply ice – never directly to the wound, but in a towel. Use for 15 minutes off then 15 minutes on.
3) Retrieve any displaced skin tissue, place it in a bag of cold water, place that bag on ice, and bring it with you. We’ll decide if it’s salvageable.
4) Get in to be evaluated. Be forthcoming about whether or not it was a bite.