Here are a few things I have learned from my time working with street medicine teams. Please be advised that this does not contain medical advice. The pictures, graphics, texts and material contained on this website is for information purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Peroxide should not be used for daily wound cleansing. It not only kills the bad bacterial but it also can destroy healthy tissue leading to delayed wound healing. Soap and lots of water is the best cleanser. Probably 9 out of 10 people I run into on the street are using peroxide on their wounds, because I get it, it's strong, and if I didn't know a bunch of nurses and doctors that would probably be my first instinct too. Believe me though, every doctor I've met HATES peroxide for wound care and it's definitely slowing down how fast your wounds heal. So don't use it.
Get wounds evaluated as soon as possible.
Please call a street medicine team or get to a clinic to have your wound evaluated. The size, shape or drainage are not accurate predictions of wound seriousness or complexity. Even the smallest wound can cause a major problem. If you want to know why getting your wounds looked at is so important skip ahead to the "systemic infection" section.
If you’re unable to get to a clinic and you have an abscess forming, place a warm compress on it until it opens up. Once it opens up, do not pitch or pick at it. Simply keep it clean and allow it to drain. Occasionally it is okay to apply gently direct pressure straight on the wound, but never pinch or pick. Keeping it clean with soap and water and allowing it to drain should be enough for it to heal. You do not need any special soap or antibacterial soap. Just regular gentle soap, or whatever you have, is perfect. Please keep any open wounds covered with clean bandages.
Ok, this is a big one. I've lost a lot of people to systemic infection. If you don't know what that is keep reading. When you're done reading scream what you've learned from the mountain tops because this is something that's so important for people who shoot drugs to understand.
Bacteria can enter into your blood and cause something called bacteremia. Usually your immune system fights it. Sometimes, your body cannot fight it and the bad bacteria keep growing and spreading causing SEPSIS (systemic infection). The blood is now carrying bad bacteria to all your organs. A common complication is endocarditis and this is when the blood carries the bad bacteria to your heart. Depending on the organ infected by the bad blood, you can get a variety of symptoms including...
Fever, fast heart rate, fainting, confusion, and abnormal behavior. Don't make the mistake of writing those symptoms off as cotton fever, covid, or anything else. They can be a serious medical emergency.
Sepsis eventually can cause your body to go into shock and when this happens, there is about 80% chance of death. Take any infections seriously, because you never know when the bacteria are going to spread and move to your organs.
Also, I know ER's can be miserable places for people who use drugs and there are a lot of doctors and nurses who can be total fucking assholes, but there are some good ones too, and I know that because a lot of them volunteer their time with us on our Tues night outreach, and I know they really want to help people. Connect to an SSP or street medicine team too so you have someone to advocate for you in those situations. Your life matters and you deserve the same level of care as anyone else.