Avoiding infection in hard to heal wounds

We have all cut, scraped or burned our skin before. Most wounds can heal on their own, but if three days pass with no improvement, your limbs could be in limbo.

John Courville still cannot believe that his foot and leg have healed up after a bad burn.  "It looked terrible," he said, "it looked like the leg was gonna fall off."

Courville accidentally brushed against his truck's hot muffler, searing the skin. He attempted to self-manage the wound for a month until a doctor happened to notice the infection.  "He said, 'man, that looks terrible. You need to go see a wound doc.'"

That wound doc was Dr. Rocky Fowler at Women and Children's Hospital, a wound specialist that knows the risk of ignored breaks in the skin.  "Burns can be trouble days later when they start to swell and they can actually cause circulation problems and make limbs fall off," said Dr. Fowler.

Wounds to that degree are called "chronic wounds" and Dr. Fowler says certain people are more prone to infections with these.  "Anyone over age 65 is definitely more prone," he said, "any type of disability, autoimmune disorders are definitely high on the list for developing wounds and diabetes."

Diabetics can lose the feeling in their limbs, making it hard to know when they are cut or infected.  "About 25 percent of the hospitalizations for diabetics are because of limb wounds," said Dr. Fowler.

If you are diabetic, you need to check for wounds and make sure you are tending to any cuts and scrapes.

Diabetic or not, these are the signs of infection: increased pain, redness, warmth, drainage and puss.

The prescription for Courville was drying out his wound, doing a saline wash and keeping it covered.  "I had almost given up on it ever healing," said Courville.

But Courville had too much at stake to not follow the doctor's orders.  "I didn't want a peg leg," he said, "the second part is I like to be outside working and moving."

Those are things Courville can enjoy again, just six weeks after the burn, now that his wound is healed up.

Basic cuts, scrapes and burns to the skin can be rinsed in warm water, followed by hydrogen peroxide.  Never soak a wound unless a doctor tells you to.

If you are diabetic and want to learn more about caring for wounds, there is a free lunch and learn with Dr. Fowler on Thursday, January 24th. It will be held at the Lake Charles Country Club at noon. Reserve your seat by calling 475-4018.

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