Most of the wounds you sustain in your life are fairly minor. You can typically stop any bleeding yourself and generally avoid infection by keeping the wound clean and applying an antibacterial ointment. But unless you're constantly taking care of wounds (which is not unheard of if you play sports, for example), sometimes a variation in how a wound heals can look like something bad. It's not always serious, but if something unusual does happen when you try to help a wound heal on your own, you can always head to an urgent care center, like 75th St Injury & Illness Center.
What's Happening During Wound Healing
In a nutshell, when you scrape your skin or sustain a similar type of injury, your immune system goes to work, staying on the lookout for pathogens trying to enter the wound while your skin knits itself back together with scar tissue. Dried blood and platelets mass together to form a scab over the wound, and your skin regenerates slowly underneath the scab. Eventually the scab falls off, revealing a pinkish scar that fades with time.
Chances are you cleaned the wound when it happened, applied pressure to stop any bleeding, and then added some sort of topical medicine like an antibacterial ointment to help prevent infection.
Alarming Signs: Bleeding and Increasing Pain and Redness
Strong bleeding that won't stop is an emergency. Minor bleeding that won't seem to stop also warrants a visit to an urgent care center, but note that there is a difference between bleeding and seeping. Seeping is much slower and can sometimes happen after the main bleeding has stopped (e.g., you stop the bleeding, place a bandage over the wound, and then notice a little blood starting to reappear through the bandage), or it can be a slow oozing of pinkish fluid that looks like diluted blood, also called serosanguinous drainage. In the case of blood seeping through a bandage, reapply pressure, add clean bandages on top of the current bandage, and see if the bleeding stops again.
For serosanguinous drainage, keep an eye on it. A little for a short time is not really a worry, but if you see a substantial quantity that just won't stop, then you should head to the urgent care center.
Now imagine the bleeding stopped quickly, but you've noticed that the skin around the wound has grown redder and more painful over the past couple of days. That's a sign of infection; get to your doctor or an urgent care center. Don't wait for signs of pus formation.
When the Wound Won't Heal
Sometimes wounds behave well at first, with bleeding stopping and no seeping, plus good scab formation. But then you notice that the scab always seems damp, or it just won't fall off, and this goes on for more than a couple of weeks. It is possible there is a minor infection, but it's also possible that you have been getting the wound wet and not letting it dry properly. You can usually get wounds wet in the shower after the first day or two, but you have to let them dry. Otherwise scab formation won't be as effective, and you increase the chances of an infection.
Whenever your own doctor isn't available, urgent care centers can take care of you. If you have a wound that won't stop bleeding, that has become infected, or that just won't heal, head on over to urgent care. There is always a solution.