Mayo Clinic Health Library

Puncture wounds

Updated: 02-21-2012

A puncture wound doesn't usually cause excessive bleeding. Often the wound seems to close almost instantly. But this doesn't mean treatment isn't necessary.

A puncture wound — such as from stepping on a nail — can be dangerous because of the risk of infection. Wounds resulting from human or animal bites may be especially prone to infection. If the bite was deep enough to draw blood and bleeding persists, seek medical attention.

Otherwise, follow these steps:

  1. Stop the bleeding. Apply gentle pressure with a clean cloth or bandage. If bleeding persists after several minutes of pressure, seek emergency assistance.
  2. Clean the wound. Rinse the wound with clear water. Use tweezers cleaned with alcohol to remove small, superficial particles. If debris remains embedded, see your doctor. Clean the area around the wound with soap and a clean cloth.
  3. Apply an antibiotic. After you clean the wound, apply a thin layer of an antibiotic cream or ointment.
  4. Cover the wound. Bandages can help keep the wound clean and keep harmful bacteria out.
  5. Change the bandage regularly. Do so at least daily or whenever it becomes wet or dirty.
  6. Watch for signs of infection. See your doctor if the wound doesn't heal or if you notice any redness, drainage, warmth or swelling.

See your doctor if the puncture wound

  • Is deep
  • Is in your foot
  • Has been contaminated with soil or saliva
  • Is the result of an animal or human bite

If you haven't had a tetanus shot within five years, your doctor may recommend a booster within 48 hours of the injury.

If an animal — especially a stray dog or a wild animal — inflicted the wound, you may have been exposed to rabies. Your doctor may give you antibiotics and suggest starting a rabies vaccination series.