Should Your Child See a Doctor?

Puncture Wound

Is this your child's symptom?

  • The skin is punctured by a pointed narrow object

Causes of Puncture Wounds

  • Metal: Nail, sewing needle, pin, tack
  • Pencil: Pencil lead is actually graphite harmless. It is not poisonous lead. Even colored leads are not toxic.
  • Wood: Toothpick

Complications of Puncture Wounds

  • Retained Foreign Body Object. This happens if part of the sharp object breaks off in the skin. The pain will not go away until it is removed.
  • Wound Infection. This happens in 4% of foot punctures. The main symptom is spreading redness 2 or 3 days after the injury.
  • Bone Infection. If the sharp object also hits a bone, the bone can become infected. Punctures of the ball of the foot are at greatest risk. The main symptoms are increased swelling and pain 2 weeks after the injury.

When to Call for Puncture Wound

Call 911 Now

  • Deep puncture on the head, neck, chest or stomach
  • You think your child has a life-threatening emergency

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Puncture into a joint
  • Feels like something is still in the wound
  • Won't stand bear weight or walk on punctured foot
  • Needle stick from used shot needle
  • Sharp object or setting was very dirty such as a playground
  • No past tetanus shots
  • Dirt in the wound is not gone after 15 minutes of scrubbing
  • Severe pain and not improved 2 hours after taking pain medicine
  • Wound looks infected spreading redness, red streaks
  • Fever occurs
  • You think your child has a serious injury
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Last tetanus shot was over 5 years ago
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Minor puncture wound

Estimated Urgent Care Wait Times

These are estimated wait times for each Urgent Care clinic. Wait times are typically longest during the first hour we are open and may not be reflected immediately in the online wait time. Wait times may also vary depending on the severity of the illnesses we are treating. If your child’s illness or injury is life-threating, call 911.

Care Advice for Puncture Wound

  1. What You Should Know About Puncture Wounds:
    • Most puncture wounds do not need to be seen.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Cleaning the Wound:
    • Wash the wound with soap and warm water for 15 minutes.
    • For any dirt or debris, scrub the wound surface back and forth. Use a wash cloth to remove any dirt.
    • If the wound re-bleeds a little, that may help remove germs.
  3. Trim Loose Skin:
    • Cut off any flaps of loose skin that seal the wound. These can interfere with drainage or removing debris.
    • Use a fine scissors. Clean them with rubbing alcohol first.
  4. Antibiotic Ointment:
    • Use an antibiotic ointment such as Polysporin. No prescription is needed.
    • Then, cover with a bandage such as Band-Aid. This helps to reduce the risk of infection.
    • Re-wash the wound and put on antibiotic ointment every 12 hours.
    • Do this for 2 days.
  5. Pain Medicine:
    • To help with the pain, give an acetaminophen product such as Tylenol.
    • Another choice is an ibuprofen product such as Advil.
    • Use as needed.
  6. What to Expect:
    • Puncture wounds seal over in 1 to 2 hours.
    • Pain should go away within 2 days.
  7. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Dirt in the wound still there after 15 minutes of scrubbing
    • Pain becomes severe
    • Looks infected redness, red streaks, pus, fever
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Last Reviewed: 09/01/2012

Last Revised: 09/01/2012

Copyright 1994-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.