Many wounds can be cared for at home. You clean the wound out with some water or iodine solution, apply an antibiotic ointment, put a bandage on it, and you're all set within a few days. Sometimes, however, wounds are more serious or do not heal properly. In cases like these, it is a good idea to see a physician for more advanced wound care. The following are key signs that you should seek professional care for a wound.
It's a puncture wound.
A puncture wound is one where a narrow object penetrates deep into your skin, leaving a sort of punch or hole. Puncture wounds are hard to clean out well, and they are also prone to infection since bacteria can easily get caught in the hole and start replicating. As such, you should always see a physician if you get a puncture wound. They can properly flush the wound and prescribe antibiotics if needed. Most puncture wounds will not be stitched as closing them may trap bacteria inside and increase the risk of infection.
It was caused by an animal.
If you get a minor cat scratch from your own domestic cat, you can generally clean it out well, apply antibiotics, and go on with your day. But if you get a deeper scratch, a bite, or a wound from any sort of wild animal, you absolutely should seek professional care. Animals can carry all sorts of dangerous bacteria on their claws and teeth. Rabies is also a concern. A doctor can prescribe antibiotics and determine whether a rabies vaccine is in order. They'll also make sure the wound is properly cleaned and dressed to reduce your risk of infection.
You're not healing.
If it has been a few days or a week and you've seen little to no progress with wound healing, see a doctor. Your wound may be a shape that makes it hard to heal. For example, triangular wounds do not heal easily. Or, your wound may be developing some excess scar tissue or granulation tissue that is making it impossible for the skin to scab over as it should. A physician may need to stitch the wound, debride it, or both.
If you're not sure whether your wound requires professional care, err on the side of caution and make an appointment with your doctor. They can assess the severity of the wound and guide you. For more information, contact a wound care physician near you.