First Time User? Enroll now.
Visiting hours have changed as a result of COVID-19. Learn more. Testing information is available. Learn more.
Home > Wellness > Health Library > Puncture Wounds
A puncture wound is a forceful injury caused by a sharp, pointed object that goes into the skin. A puncture wound is usually narrower and deeper than a cut or scrape. Many people get puncture wounds by accident from household items, work items, or yard tools or when operating machinery. Most puncture wounds are minor, and home treatment is usually all that is needed.
Sharp objects, such as nails, tacks, ice picks, knives, teeth, and needles, can cause puncture wounds. These wounds raise your risk of infection because they are hard to clean and they provide a warm, moist place for bacteria to grow. The bacteria Pseudomonas are a common cause of infection when a person's foot gets punctured through the sole of an athletic shoe.
Some punctures are done for health reasons. For example, a needle puncture may be used by a doctor to draw blood or to put fluid or medicines into a vein (intravenous, or IV).
Health professionals have a higher risk for needle-stick injuries. A puncture from a used needle increases the risk of infection. It also increases the risk of getting a disease that is passed (transmitted) through blood, such as hepatitis or HIV. But for puncture wounds from clean needles, home treatment may be all that is needed.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Symptoms of infection may include:
Pain in adults and older children
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
With severe bleeding, any of these may be true:
With moderate bleeding, any of these may be true:
With mild bleeding, any of these may be true:
Usually found in dirt and soil, tetanus bacteria typically enter the body through a wound. Wounds may include a bite, a cut, a puncture, a burn, a scrape, insect bites, or any injury that may cause broken skin.
You may need a tetanus shot depending on how dirty the wound is and how long it has been since your last shot.
Symptoms of difficulty breathing can range from mild to severe. For example:
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Put direct, steady pressure on the wound until help arrives. Keep the area raised if you can.
Minor puncture wounds can be treated effectively at home. Home treatment can prevent infection and promote healing.
Try these tips for treating a puncture wound.
This lowers the chance of infection, scarring, and tattooing of the skin from dirt left in the wound. (If dirt or other debris is not removed from a puncture wound, the new skin will heal over it. The dirt can then be seen through the skin and may look like a tattoo.)
These tissues include blood vessels, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, bones, and internal organs.
Most puncture wounds heal well and don't need a bandage.
You may need to protect the puncture wound from dirt and irritation. Be sure to clean the wound thoroughly before bandaging it. Cleaning reduces the chance that you'll get an infection under the bandage.
Prop up the injured area on a pillow anytime you sit or lie down. Try to keep the area at or above the level of your heart to reduce swelling.
If you are concerned that the injury is more serious, you may need to be checked by a doctor to see if you need stitches or a tetanus shot.
Before using tweezers or a needle to remove a splinter, try using cellophane tape to remove it. Simply put the tape over the splinter, then pull the tape off. The tape will stick to the splinter and remove it painlessly.
If tape doesn't work, try these steps.
Do not wet or soak the splinter because it will be harder to remove in one piece.
If the splinter is embedded in the skin:
You may need medical care if the splinter:
To decide if you need a tetanus shot after a wound, first decide if the object that caused the wound was dirty or clean. An object is dirty if it has dirt, soil, spit, or feces on it. A clean object does not have dirt, soil, spit, or feces on it.
You will need a tetanus shot if:
If you need a tetanus shot, call your doctor to arrange for a shot.
Some people may need tetanus immunoglobulin (IG) for a wound that is at high risk for developing tetanus. The immunoglobulin is usually only needed if you have not (or do not know if you have) completed the tetanus primary vaccination series.
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Current as of:
March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineH. Michael O'Connor MD - Emergency MedicineMartin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: March 9, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor MD - Emergency Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
208 Cox Blvd.
Goldsboro, NC 27534
1001 Innovation Way
Kinston, NC 28504
2615 Hospital Road; Suite 300
Goldsboro, NC 27534
2615 Hospital Road
Goldsboro, NC 27534
2707 Medical Office Place
Goldsboro, NC 27534