Helping a wound to heal properly can require regularly changing dressings to keep the underlying injury free from infection. Changing wound dressings is relatively straightforward, but when you're caring for someone vulnerable, it's particularly important to make sure that wounds are kept sterile and patients are exposed to as little pain as possible.
In this article we’ll cover best practice for changing wound dressings, to help make the procedure straightforward for healthcare professionals as well as reducing patient discomfort.
The first step in changing a wound dressing is to practice infection control, including thorough hand hygiene. This means washing your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap before you proceed to remove an old wound dressing. You should also wear sterile gloves, to limit the chances of contamination even further, even if you have already washed your hands.
Once your hands are clean and sterile, begin removing the old dressing from the wound by pulling slowly and gently, moving in the natural direction of hair growth on the skin. If you meet any resistance due to the wound being stuck to the bandage, immediately stop pulling. Soak the dressing with sterile saline solution for a few minutes to loosen it, before carefully starting to remove the gauze once again.
The saline will help to soften the scab so that the bandage can be removed painlessly, and without the risk of additional infection. It is still important to pull the bandage away from the patient's skin as slowly and carefully as possible however, to avoid knocking the scab or causing additional discomfort.
It's often helpful to talk to the person you care for as you change their wound dressing, as the conversation can take their mind off any pain or discomfort they may be feeling, and help them to relax.
Once you have safely and carefully removed the old bandage, you should check to see whether the wound needs to be cleaned gently with cotton wool. Make sure to avoid applying too much pressure while you are cleaning the wound, as the saline solution will have softened the scab and could mean that you end up tearing the protective shell away.
If the person you're caring for has medication that they can take to help with pain, this might be a good time to suggest a dose, provided that their last dose was not taken too recently.
After the wound has been properly cleaned, carefully apply a new wound dressing, ensuring you have chosen an appropriate dressing for the specific type of wound. For instance, a burns bandage should be used for a burn, and absorbent bandages such as cloth dressings should be used on cuts that are prone to bleeding.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding changing wound dressings for an individual you care for, we always recommend seeking prompt advice from a medical professional.
We hope that you’ve found our best practice tips on changing wound dressings useful. You can find our full range of wound management products on our website, to help you ensure your First Aid kit is always kept well stocked and that you have the products you need to provide the best care possible.