A wound occurs when there's physical damage to the body and usually takes the form of a break in the skin or mucous membrane. Caring for your wound means more than just putting a dressing onto a wound, there's also your general health, lifestyle and factors that might slow healing down to consider.
Here we share answers to common questions we receive around wound care. Please note the information supplied is general in nature and you should consult your healthcare professional when trying to heal wounds.
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How do I help my wound heal?
You can start by following good personal hygiene habits:
Then follow 4 simple steps:
You can help by telling a health professional if the following happens: increased pain, swelling, redness around the wound.
Do scabs help wounds to heal?
Contrary to popular belief, scabs don't aid the healing process. Although scabs protect the wound bed from further damage, the time it takes for the skin to repair beneath a scab is slowed by the dry environment. A scab also increases the likelihood of a scar.
What should I do if a wound is not healing?
Extensive information and resources can be accessed by your health professional to help you. Healing a chronic wound is a complex process that involves more than the dressing and a visit from your GP or nurse.
If your wound has not improved within 4 weeks or healed within 3 months and you're still unsure of what caused the wound, or why the healing is delayed, then take an active role with your health professional to identify what is the underlying cause of the wound, the reasons for the delay in healing, and seek help to apply clear strategies that can be measured.
If there's no improvement in the wound, seek referral to a specialist wound clinic so any new innovations can be discussed and a team of people can work towards a solution.
What's the most important factor in caring for a wound?
Hygiene is the most important factor, maintaining an environment low in risks to health, ensuring cleanliness and preventing the spread of infection and disease.
Hygiene extends across a number of areas including body contact, bedding, respiration and water. For wound care, hand hygiene is one of the most important of these areas.
How do you prevent a wound from becoming infected?
Any wound from amputation or other surgery is at risk of becoming infected because the skin opening can allow germs or dirt to enter the bloodstream. Infections can cause tenderness or pain, fever, redness, swelling and/or discharge. These infections can lead to further complications or surgery or even death if not treated properly.
If you suspect you are getting an infection, do something. Act quickly, before a small irritation becomes a serious problem.
The best way to handle an infection is to prevent it:
You may have a wound that you are very capable of managing yourself. Sometimes, however, a wound needs professional management from a doctor or nurse. These wounds can include leg ulcers, lacerations and skin tears or wounds that have not healed properly after an operation.
Is it normal for wounds to itch after surgery?
There will often be a sensation of tightness and this is part of the normal inflammatory response to an injury. Surgical wounds are closed with sutures or staples or skin closure strips, and healing takes place by primary intention where the skin heals before the underlying tissue. This type of wound is considered acute and healing usually takes place within the first 7 to 10 days where a simple dressing is usually chosen for protection. Immediately after surgery it is important for the wound to be kept clean and dry for at least the first 72-96 hours. The early dressing choice is determined by the surgeon who advises when to remove the dressing or leave the wound open. Itching around the area may indicate irritation from the sutures, staples or just contracting of the skin with healing. It could also be related to a re-action associated with the dressing material. Some people are more sensitive to tapes, solutions and plastics which can result in the skin erupting around the wound site. This is not that common but needs to be assessed and managed to avoid compromising the suture line and risk contamination and infection. If the suture line is excessively itchy, then the dressing will need to be changed. Please seek a medical opinion to determine if specific medication is needed for the skin surrounding a wound.
What are the main types of wounds?
There are two main types of wounds. Acute wounds happen suddenly but usually heal fairly quickly such as cuts, burns and grazes. Whereas chronic wounds can begin as an acute wound or develop from another condition, but then don't heal quickly or as expected. A wound that hasn't healed after 3 months is usually considered chronic.
Wounds can also be classified as simple or complex, penetrating or non-penetrating, superficial or deep.
What's the best way to secure a dressing?
Depending on the location of the wound a basic bandage can be used in most circumstances. There are a range of tubular bandages that can be cut to size to secure a dressing on a limb.
Legs: caution with any sort of bandaging must be taken to avoid the risk of blood flow being cut off. Leg bandaging can be complex therefore the limb circulation will need to be assessed. There is a range of multi-layer compression bandaging systems designed to reduce fluid retention.
Arms: tubular bandages are a simple solution and there is an extensive range of options available. Cohesive bandages are best suited for arms because they are stretchy and easily secured.
Torso: tubular bandages, cut to size, can provide support of dressings in awkward places. The materials range from thick elastic to fine cotton.
Head: tubular net bandages are designed to stretch therefore can be cut and fitted as required. Generally cloth tape in a variety of widths can be used to secure the dressing on the skin.
Why is it important to dress a wound?
After a wound has been cleansed, the next step is dressing it. Dressing protects a healing wound from mechanical injury and micro organisms, as well as ensuring a moist healing environment and thermal insulation. Dressings also support healing by preventing haemorrhages and restricting the mobility of a wound to prevent further injury.
There are four main types of dressing.
Primary: dressing comes directly into contact with the wound bed
Secondary: dressing is used over a primary dressing when the primary dressing does not fully protect the wound from contamination
Occlusive: dressing protects a wound from the outside environment and keeps all wound moisture at the wound
Semi-occlusive: dressing allows some oxygen and moisture to evaporate
What's the best dressing to use for a foot blister?
Ideally it would be best to eliminate the cause. Be sensible when selecting footwear. For example court shoes are designed to stay on when the fit is tight. This tightness is usually the cause of friction and moisture, which forms a blister. Dressings suitable for this are soft adhesive foams or thin hydrocolloids. A leather treatment can be used to soften the shoe but this is only a short-term fix. Diabetics with heel blisters need to seek podiatry advice as soon as possible.
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