How To Stop An Infection From An Ordinary Cut

It doesn’t take long for the possibility of an infection setting in as a result from an ordinary cut on your skin. In today’s modern world of medicine we don’t give it much thought – especially with all of the ointments and antibiotics at our disposal.

But what about for preparedness? What supplies should we keep on hand to help prevent a simple (or worse) cut from becoming infected? Or to treat an infection that may be setting in?

How do you know if a cut is becoming infected?

I’m writing this as a result of a recent experience – actually two of them in the past few days. I have been doing more than my share of manual labor around the homestead lately and one day I cut my finger (very minor) while working with EMT (electrical conduit pipe). I pretty much ignored it, and by the next morning that little cut began to hurt – a bit of sting and it felt warm – plus it began to redden around the area. That’s how you know that an infection may be setting in.

Similarly, just yesterday I somehow managed to get a small cut on the back of my ankle while working outside (I should have been wearing my taller work boots). Again, I ignored it for awhile, but it became apparent (red color surrounding the area and becoming more painful) that I had better do something about it – just in case…

How To Stop The Infection

For most minor cuts, the remedy is simple.

1. Rinse the cut of any dirt. I simply rinse under running water for minor cuts. For deeper or worse cuts you might consider using hydrogen peroxide or saline to rinse the cut.

2. Apply an antibiotic ointment. This is the key! Again, we live in a modern medical world in which products like these can literally save our life. It works… The most common antibiotic cream is the brand name, NEOSPORIN.

The active ingredients of Neosporin (in each gram) are:
Bacitracin 500 Units
Neomycin 3.5 Mg
Polymyxin B 10,000 Units
Pramoxine Hcl 10 Mg

The shelf life of Neosporin (and presumably similar antibiotic ointments) is based on its expiration date. This is the date when it loses its efficacy (the ability to produce a desired or intended result), however the potency is not all gone – it diminishes. The typical shelf life from manufacture is 2 years.

3. Having applied antibiotic ointment, apply a band-aid. If the cut is worse than what a band-aid can cover, then apply clean gauze and tape it up…

You will usually find that once you’ve applied Neosporin (or similar), it doesn’t take long at all for any pain to diminish – along with any redness. This stuff really works…

I know that this is a simple thing (treating a cut) and most everyone knows about antibiotic ointment – but I’m pointing it out today so that you might check your First Aid supply to be sure you have enough, and to check the expiration dates.

Side note: Perhaps the best general purpose First Aid Kit (Made in the USA)


Many of you who are preparedness-minded and have researched ways to acquire a personal storage of antibiotics – you likely have discovered the reality that so called ‘Fish Antibiotics’ (from Thomas Labs) are apparently the exact same thing.

Fish Mox – Amoxicillin
Fish Cillin – Ampicillin
Fish Flex – Cephalexin
Fish Flox – Ciprofloxacin
Fish Pen – Penicillin
Fish Doxy – Doxycycline

Related article:
Fish Antibiotics For Preparedness

Note: None of this is to be considered ‘medical advice’. Please consult with your doctor.

Feel free to add your own recommendations or experiences by commenting below:


  1. I use soap and water, then I spray on Clorox Anywhere (surface spray). I learned this from another prepper website several years ago. Leave on 2-3 minutes, rinse then use the ointment and cover with bandage/band-aid. I use brand name ointment. Also cut can be rinsed in iodine after rinsing with water.(doesn’t stain red like iodine decades back, has a yellow tint). The Clorox Anywhere is cheaper by far and works as good as the iodine.

    1. Please do not use Clorox. It’s a very strong oxidizer. It will disolve meat. That meat being you.
      Try Betadine. You can get it in the drug store and is used by many doctors. It’s not expensive. It’s better to use something that has been tested and intended for human use.

      1. I have doctored many very bad wounds on horses, One was a three year mare, when she was found her right hind leg had a six inch gash and was full of infection and she could not bend it. Called the vet and he stated there was nothing he could do for it and stated that we should put her down. The young mare belonged to my son and I told him that there was a method that was passed down to me from my father that his father had gave to him. Take a 5 gallon bucket of hot water a half cup of 3% Clorox and a teaspoon of pure ivory soap. We treated the mare 3 times a day for a weak and then used salt and butter salve. After the wound healed it left a 2 inch scar about 1 eighth inch wide. This mare Dandy lived to 28 years and packed many deer and elk. Hypochlorous acid is made by the human body to fight off infection. Hypochlorous is the salt of hypocholorite .

        1. old timer
          You used salt & butter suave, my dad had us use bacon fat. Before the businesses started adding all the junk now a days to it.

          We had to fry the bacon for the fat in order to render it before applying it to the cut on the horses leg. Amazing old time solutions are frowned upon now a days.

        2. The bacon fat is still a remedy and it was the top choice of treatment for a friend’s horse about 3 years ago. I have no idea why rendered bacon fat was chosen!
          The injured mare suffered a gash and deep abrasion along its tenderloin (a gash and total skin removal — about 12-inches long). The injury came from a vehicle accident while the horse was being hauled (the trailer flipped to its side). The treatment was to apply rendered fat (aka bacon grease) directly on the wound, then apply a baby diaper for protection. The diapers are long, providing a large coverage, and it was applied with adhesive tape to keep the bacon grease on the wound and keep the wound protected. Months later, as the wound began to heal, the diaper pads were replaced by dressing pads that were reduced in size as the wound healed. It was about 4 months before a very thin layer of skin provided enough protective covering to remove those dressing pads.
          The horse healed completely!

        3. Modern Throwback
          My dad told me the fat kept a protective coating on the area which was healing the salt in the rendered fat pulled any infection out of the cut. Where by the sever cut could heal from the inside out. It still works today, we use higher quality bacon with less preseveratives so that the healing process is not impeded.
          As your friend used diapers to cover the wound, our horse was not as sever but the gash was deep. We used sterile cloth with an ace bandage then wrapped with tape so she could not pull it off during the healing process. ACDH changed the bandage every day so I had to process a lot of bacon for the horses healing time. We had a lot of BLT sandwiches…lol

  2. Our home, each of our vehicles, the BOBs, and daypacks have first aid kits and triple antibiotic ointment is common to each. If commercial products aren’t available raw honey can be used as an antiseptic, antibiotic, antifungal, and antibacterial treatment. Raw honey never spoils and can be stored just about forever.

    1. Apparently, raw honey was used even up to the end of the second world war for its antibacterial properties in treating wounds.

    2. Glad to see honey was mentioned on this post. Can’t beat it for a survival prep – doesn’t spoil, lots of energy if you need to eat it, and the topical antibiotic properties.

  3. We have been using this for years…the wife started us and it is like our go-to fixer. I must admit, at 74, I still get out and do stupid things, ouch, and out comes the go-you!

  4. Having Chickweed/Beeswax stored is also important. The benefits are too long to list.
    Inexpensive and lasts a long time. Just takes a little.

    I know when I feel Herpes II stinging my lips, applying chickweed/beeswax stops it from surfacing.

    I also had a bump/cancerous looking place on my arm that took 3 months to get rid of preventing an expensive trip to the dermatologist.
    I applied overnight and used a bandaid.

  5. I have used Oil of oregano to knock out an infection. It has antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, properties. I’m gonna try the capsules this cold/flu season (if I get hit with anything).

    1. Oil of Oregano also comes in drops, and a drop can be directly applied to a wound after washing with soap and water,…If a wound is very dirty…as in walking barefoot, cleaning with peroxide will often remove debris, but it is not commonly recommended, due to the effects of peroxide destroying new tissue. So,If I needed to use it just once to clean I would, but not use it again.

      Also a good drawing salve, works wonders for pulling out inflammation and infections.I used a Prid and a soak of hot epsom salt 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup common bleach to a gallon of water to pull infection form a wound that had occurred between the toes of a family member.By the time the Dr’s office was available, it was healing well.

  6. What about using sugar? “According to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, sugar is hygroscopic and functions to dehydrate all bacteria. Bacterium of course requires water to survive and to multiply. Thus, the lack of water results in bacterial death.”

    1. i’ve heard this about sugar, too, and read of it being used..

      wondering though, if modern sugar has a whack of chemicals in it?

    2. I always got it in my EDC.
      Sugar is cheap and effective to dry and prevent infections.

      (Or to get a little bit of energy if needed). :)

  7. Once you get blood poison from a small cut you will never neglect a superficial wounds again. Neosporin is a great product. We always have a lot around our house and in our first aid kits. If I have a wound that couldn’t be treated for awhile for what ever reason, I will clean it at first chance and soak the wound in hot water with Epsom salts and then apply Neosporin. Epsom salts will draw the infection out and has saved me a trip to the Doctors office many times.

  8. How do you tell a MD (medical doctor) from a WD( witch doctor)? One uses Neospotin, neomycin and late night chants to treat an infection and the other knows when not to suture a wound closed. I am sure this comment will start a fire storm but it was not written out of ignorance. Best to all,

  9. I used Silver Gel on an infected dog bite wound on my daughter. I was amazed at how it drew out the infection. Healed up very quickly.

    1. Silver compounds was used to treat wounds a long time before( penicillian, invented about 1938). What do major burn centers use, they use silvadene ( silver sulfate). what solution was put into new born babies eyes to protect against blindeness if the mother had VD, silver nitrate. Most Doctors can tell you what strength of these solution that are safe to use. How does the Russian space industry purify it^s drinking water, colloidal silver

  10. Gin, both internal and external. (works for me anyways)
    May be substituted with Vodka, Moonshine, Clear-Tequila, or Clear-Rum. do not use “dark” liquids (booze).
    As with Ken this is not actually medical advice and not intended to be so.

  11. I use hydrogen peroxide. Always works and is very inexpensive. Though a doctor recently told me it slows healing.

    I also use it to disinfect other things, toothbrushes, fever thermometers….

  12. I recently used raw honey on a bacterial infection that was just getting started. It was cleared up the next day. Make sure you sure raw unprocessed honey.

  13. I keep a tube of Therahoney Gel in the medical kit. I was first introduced to this by special wound care nurses in the local hospital for patients with sever wounds.

  14. I cut my Finger one time to the bone. My Dad put a rag around it to stop the bleeding, then he poured Coal-oil / kerosene on top of it and said if you put the coal-oil on it everyday, it will never become sore. It never got infected and it never got sore. He said when he was growing up there was no modern medicine and people used coal-oil / kerosene all the time, just an old depression medicine…………….

    1. cash

      I have heard many of these “old” stories re these products…my Dad said when he was a kid (about 1910), they would give a tsp for a cough, and it worked. I asked why they didn’t do similar now (back about in 1989), and he said there are way too many additives in it now, it is toxic…

  15. A lot of people overuse band-aids. They provide a nice moist environment for infection to thrive. I only use them for a short period of time to stop bleeding. After cleaning out foreign matter. Slivers and the like used to kill a lot of people when they weren’t removed.

    You can use super glue or duct tape as a band-aid.

    1. You’re right on the bandage overuse. It’s important to allow the wound to receive fresh air and for it to “dry out”.

  16. Our doctor told us that the active ingredient in Neosporin, Bacitracin, can be purchased by itself and is fine for use. We use that instead of the higher priced Neo and have had good results.

    Recently, I managed to shove a sliver up in my finger between the skin and the nail (on the side). I didn’t realize I had done this since I had been working very hard with my hands and EVERY finger was sore. A couple of days went by and late one evening while in bed, my husband rolled on my hand and it woke me up, the pain was so bad. I stumbled into the bathroom and bleary-eyed noticed the side of my finger was bright red. I slapped some Bacitracin on it and went to bed again.

    The next morning I realized the infection was too far along for the Bacitracin or else I had foreign material embedded in there (I couldn’t see anything). I soaked the finger three times a day in good old Hydrogen Peroxide and at night I put Bacitracin on with a bandaid to keep it in place. It took the three days for the “therapy” to bring out the goo, but once it was scraped away and my finger treated again, the infection was cured almost immediately.

    The reason I gave such a long story is to say it’s very important to check the wound for any foreign substance, like a sliver, and REMOVE it first before treating. If your wound stays infected despite treatment it almost certainly has something solid inside it. The wound will usually not heal as long as it’s inhabited.

  17. I have read so often that people, even sometimes hospitals have used “real” honey (as opposed to many which have sugar and stuff added, without being on label)..on cuts and burns which would not heal regardless of antibiotics used.

    if one had real honey, might it be good to spread on a cut?

    1. Either medical grade honey, or raw, natural unfiltered , unheated honey…local is best. for wounds, this is what is being recommended. Those that use honey for medical treatment do not use the stuff you buy at the dollar store and has more than one ingredient.That stuff is cut where only the flavor remains, and not much of that. Honey works well on wounds and burns of all depths. I prefer Silver, and have had better results with it, but honey and tea tree oil work very well.

  18. I also use Neosporin for everyday cuts but primarily I have begun using it in rashes. Chafing rashes and heat rashes from working or running. Just a light film before you go to bed and wear light cloth over it and it heals up overnight.

  19. Povidone Iodine is better and can be bought at a CVS. I have a tube in my B-O-B.

  20. While only a last resort, a ten percent bleach solution is as effective as a good anti bacterial. Externally of course. I learned this when my wife was in the hospital and she had gaping surgical wound that was not healing. They called in a specialist of infections and that’s what he did. Even sent us home with instructions. My wife’s wound healed just fine and it’s been around six years since then.

  21. For some reason, I get a severe rash where I apply Neo – Have tried it several times with new stock.

    1. You should try to isolate what you are allergic to in that and not use it.a skin allergy is minor compared to an anaphalactic one. Be sure to keep liquid benadryl for allergic reactions that suddenly become much worse.

  22. To clean the operating theatre and tools: Bleach solution in water. use rag and spray bottles.

    To clean skin around the rash or wound: Alcohol or hydrogen peroxide or Povidine iodine solution. Use what you want to. They all work well. I like the last 2 because they do not burn. Don’t forget bactine for children. it is watered down but it does not hurt therefore kids will not fear being treated for cuts and scrapes.

    Debridement : The removal of foreign bodies within the injured site. Some flesh is inevitably going to be removed too. (on the microscopic level)

    To heal the wound or the rash: Cover rash with A&D ointment several times per day at minimum. A light smear with a small amount is adequate. For cuts and scrapes: Follow the advice above regarding cleaning the area where you will be changing bandage, cleaning of the wound site and removal of foreign bodies (dirt). Place neosporin in the wound and place bandaid over the cut.

    Where many do this at first, bandage changes must be done periodically several times a day when the bandage gets wet or dirty or both. Wet bandages do not draw out the infection anymore because they are saturated. Skin heals from the bottom up so if in a working environment, it may be best to leave the cut uncovered. Do not debride the cut every time you wash your hands. All it does is remove granulating tissue. (delays the healing process) A good guideline is to clean and dress the wound just prior to bedtime where the antibiotic cream/ointment can do its work over the course of hours with minimal amounts of dirt and disturbance.

    Deep puncture wounds take a long time to heal and may require the use of a jackson-pratt drain which draws out fluid to prevent the skin from healing over a wound creating a pocket of infection (abcess). .J-Ps are installed within a hospital or clinic. Local anesthesia is required at a minimum. This is not a procedure to be done in the off-grid, backcountry location. With this in mind, the small suturing jobs/butterfly bandages I have done have been just enough to close the skin but leaving enough gaps to allow drainage to exit and draw out any infection within the wound. The site is covered with a clean, dry 4×4 gauze pad.

    Obviously, the above requires a lot of supplies. I worked in a rural location in a small clinic and drove ambulance while there for years. We went through lots of gauze pads and Kerlix roller gauze during that time. Other tools used which come in handy are forceps (straight or curved and safety/bandage shears (Paramedic shears). Forceps can be purchased at Farm Supply under vet supplies for horses.

    Good subject Ken with the reminder to stay safe out there.

    1. When my kids were very young I had developed a rash on my leg. Someone told me to use A & D ointment on it. Three days later there was no improvement. So I cleaned it off and decided to try Desitin cream. I figured it worked great on the baby’s diaper rash, why not. The next day it was greatly improved. Three days and the rash was gone. I always thought diaper rash ointments were the same, before I ran into a problem where one didn’t work. Now all we use is Desitin.

  23. Homebody, you might want to switch to double antibiotic ointment. Neosporin is the trade name for the generic triple antibiotic ointment. The double antibiotic contains Polymyxin and Bacitracin. One large hospital chain I used to work for switched to it over concerns about people becoming sensitized or allergic to the Neomycin.

    Bactroban or Mupirocin 2% ointment is what I described to my patients as like bacitracin with an attitude. It isn’t a bacitracin based drug but the name could be misleading. It is not over the counter so you will have to get a prescription for it. It should be reserved for wounds not responding favorably. And of course all infected wounds should be evaluated by a medical professional capable of prescribing medications.

    Axeman, Look up the Dakin’s recipe again. It is to caustic to the wound unless it is buffered with sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) One capful of bleach is going to be a pretty dilute product.

  24. CaliRefugee, I liked the comment on the bactine for the kids.I would always ask my pediatric patients if they wanted me to use the special hospital water that stings or the other special hospital water that doesn’t sting. Kids love a choice and it greatly relieved their fear of the ER visit.

  25. I had an incident where i received a robe tear on my pinky finger (through the crease) right down to the bone. There was noway of sewing it shut, so i rinsed with saline and applied Colloidal silver, vitamin E and aloe. Loose bandaging. after about 2 weeks, you couldn’t tell that anything even happened. If i had gone to the dr, he would have grafted it.
    Dr bill $0 me Happy

  26. A number of years ago (~30yrs), I was wade fishing in Florida when I stepped on a stingray. It was a glancing blow on my heal by the poison from the barb still got under my skin. For the next several hours I was in significant pain. We stopped by a coastal back woods restaurant (normally only frequented by the locals) and the waitress (an experienced older lady. . . I’m not trying to be disrespectful here) asked me “Whats wrong with you boy?” I explained what happened and she said she would be right back. She brought a small cup of bleach and told me to go into the bathroom and pour the bleach in the wound to clean it out. I was in such pain that I was willing to try anything. Within seconds of cleaning out the wound, it stopped the pain. Apparently, with bleach being a strong oxidizer (please note that not all bleach’s contain oxidizers), reacted to neutralize the poison. It eventually healed and all that remains is a small scar. Had I not used the bleach, I would likely have had significant tissue damage.

    While I am not advocating using the bleach for wound cleaning, I would use it as a disinfectant if it was all I had at my disposal. I suggest you do your own research and develop multiple treatment options.

    Also, if you are walking in the marsh or in the surf, shuffle your feet so that you bump the stingray as opposed to stepping on it. It will not likely sting you unless you step on it. It is a defensive weapon not an offensive one.

  27. To me :
    Medicine sounds easy in textbooks until you deal with uncooperative patients and scared children. Wearing a uniform made it even tougher (big people that look official) Frequently with toddlers and young children, I tried to make things as gentle and pain free as possible such that they do not fear the ambulance, doctor or dentist visit.

    Bactine may have a small amount of viscous lidocaine within solution making it relatively sting-free. I use it in the field to irrigate the wound to remove foreign matter for kids. I treated a young girl that stepped on a piece of broken glass years ago and as I was dressing the wound I was giving the pat line about : “I recommend you go see a doctor for follow up” the father responded that he was a pediatrician. The only thing scarier than treating the child of a doctor is to treat the child of a lawyer that is watching you closely and asking lots of questions.

    Can a blogger answer the question about the contents of the aid station boxes that are kept along the shoreline of beaches in Australia? I was told that they keep a liter of either bleach or isopropyl alcohol in their aid stations for the purpose of pouring it on marine animal stings like Box jellyfish and stingrays. It has been a long time since I talked to an Aussie surfer.

    1. Box jellyfish and tropical stingers – Pour vinegar over the Tentacles and skin to deactivate the sting. Call 000, Australian version of 911.

      Non-tropical stingers – wash off remaining tentacles with seawater or pick off (use gloves if possible), immerse wound in hot water for 20 minutes OR use a cold pack / ice

      See medical attention.

  28. To Anonymous:

    Creams that contain colloidal silver is what we used to smear on top of skin grafts on the Burn Unit prior to covering with sterile dressing. It is hard to find and not cheap.

  29. All these are great ideas. Main point: Don’t ignore it. Ignoring a small cut when you are exposed to urban or outdoor contaminants = infection. Once I pinched (a very tiny pinch) my finger while cleaning an antique rifle covered in dust and dirt. Ended up with a fungal infection. No cut is too small

  30. This year have been working on infrastructure at the farm – tree/stump removal, construction, excavation, drainage, fencing, splitting and stacking firewood, etc. I have the (paid) help and expertise of a terrific younger neighbor who often gets a group of guys to help with the bigger jobs. Almost any job around this place also involves tearing out overgrown blackberries. I have a card table set up with water, sodas, snacks, a bucket of assorted gloves, wipes or hand sanitizer, and a tube of Neosporin or its big box equivalent. Tubes also in sight near every sink in the house. God love ‘em, sometimes you just have to mommy-nag younger guys to take care of themselves. A quick wipe and a schmear of ointment can save days of discomfort, pain, and reduced activity. And as Wolfgar says, septicemia (and the cost of treatment) is no joke.

Comments are closed.