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Wounds and dressings

Published on February 12, 2024 at 8:00 / Updated on February 24, 2024 at 8:00

Using a dressing on small cuts, scrapes, and superficial skin wounds promotes healing and helps prevent infection. Make sure to keep an assortment of sizes in your first-aid kit.

Bleeding

When a wound is bleeding, you can stop the bleeding by applying pressure directly to the wound. A gauze pad can be used to protect the wound while you apply pressure.

Cleaning

Before you clean the wound, make sure that any bleeding has stopped. Cleaning it with running tap water and mild soap is the first step in removing dirt. The pressure from the water flow should dislodge any dirt.

Once the wound is clean, it's recommended to rinse it under running tap water for 5 minutes.

Hydrogen peroxide and alcohol or iodine solutions should be avoided, as they can be painful and may delay healing.

Finish this step by drying the wound with a clean compress.

Dressing

Applying a dressing keeps the wound moist, which speeds up healing. It also helps absorb discharge and improves comfort.

The dressing should be changed when it becomes dirty or soaked with fluid. Before applying a new dressing, you can gently wash off any dried blood or secretions with water. If the dressing is stuck to the wound, run it under water to loosen it so that you can remove it without causing further injury or bleeding.

There are a variety of dressings available on the market. No one product is perfect. Below are some criteria to help you find the right one for you:

  • Large enough that the adhesive (sticky) part doesn't touch the wound.
  • Adheres well enough to the healthy skin around the wound to stay in place for a few days. Every time you remove a dressing, you slow the healing process.
  • Keeps bacteria, dirt, and water out of the wound.
  • Absorbs any liquid from the wound without drying it out.

Antibiotics and signs of infection

Applying antibiotics to the wound is not recommended in all situations. Consult your health care provider before applying any product or medication to a wound.

Watch out for the following signs of infection after an injury:

  • Swelling, redness, and heat around the wound
  • Pain or sensitivity in the surrounding area
  • Presence of pus
  • Fever

When should I see a health care professional?

Speak with your health care provider in the following situations:

  • The injury is to your face
  • There is debris in the wound that you can't dislodge
  • The wound is due to an animal or human bite
  • There is bleeding that doesn't appear to be slowing
  • The wound is deep
  • You aren't sure whether your tetanus vaccination is up to date
  • The wound shows signs of infection
  • The wound is accompanied by significant pain
  • The wound happened in an environment with a lot of dirt
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