It doesn’t matter if an injury occurs while backpacking in the deep woods or strolling across the living room, open wounds have the potential to become infected, and infections can lead to more serious complications.

Just ask Dr. David Pombo, infectious disease specialist with East Falls Infectious Disease. Dr. Pombo practices at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center (EIRMC). As a regional, comprehensive facility, patients come from Idaho, Wyoming and Montana to receive treatment at EIRMC. So, Dr. Pombo has extensive experience treating chronic and acute infections, and he recognizes the importance of treating wounds quickly, regardless of how the wound is received.

“Every case is different. Some wounds may have a bit of redness, swelling and pain and an antibiotic cream takes care of it, but on the other hand, sometimes bacteria will enter a wound and it becomes invasive, contaminating the blood stream and creating severe complications. We never know which way it will go,” Dr. Pombo said. “That’s why the best thing to do is to care for wounds quickly and prevent bacteria from entering the wound in the first place.”

Remembering first steps in First Aid

If skin breaks open, what’s the first thing to do? Dr. Pombo says many people bypass the crucial initial step of washing a wound with soapy water to prevent infection.

“If a cut, gash or other wound has the potential to get contaminated, soap and water go a long way. Don’t skip that step,” Dr. Pombo said. “A lot of us don’t realize that we carry bacteria on the surface of our skin. We think infections come from some object in the environment. But, if there’s a break in the skin, there’s an entrance for bacteria. The effects can be devastating.”

For example, Dr. Pombo recently treated a woman who cut her pinky finger while moving appliances to a new apartment. As she drove the truck full of her belongings to a new city, the half-inch cut on her pinky grew painful. By the end of the day, an infection from the streptococcal group of bacteria had progressed up the woman’s arm to the point that she needed the arm’s infected skin surgically removed and new skin grafted in.

“Go to the emergency room as soon as the wound grows painful. When things progress quickly, you need to act quickly. Swelling, redness or pain from wounds shouldn’t be ignored,” Dr. Pombo said.

When cases become complex, receive comprehensive care

Infection prevention is especially important for people with pre-existing conditions that slow and complicate the body’s healing process.

“For people who manage chronic conditions that affect wounds, like diabetes, early intervention is important. If wounds are ignored, they can progress, become severe and require more advanced medical attention,” Dr. Pombo said.

Since diabetics frequently suffer from neuropathy of the feet, infected foot wounds can easily go unnoticed and lead to complications that require long-term care. Dr. Pombo recommends that people with diabetes, or other chronic conditions that interfere with healing, schedule regular visits with skilled medical professionals who can identify, assess and treat wounds.

“If an infected wound does become severe, EIRMC has an extensive wound care clinic with experts ready to help,” Dr. Pombo said. “We use a team approach, involving infectious disease and wound care specialists, podiatrists and interventional radiologists. Having a facility like this, where all specialties are available under one roof and working together, is a major advantage for our patients.”

Such specialized treatment at EIRMC aids wounds that are struggling to heal on their own by creating customized plans and utilizing top-quality, innovative treatments, like bioengineered tissues, compression therapy, negative pressure wound therapy and pressure mapping.

To make an appointment with Dr. Pombo, call (208) 535-4475.

To learn more about wound care available at EIRMC, call (208) 529-7986.