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Different Types of Wound Dressing and When to Use Them

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Different Types of Wound Dressing and When to Use Them

Using the right kind of wound dressing is absolutely essential when it comes to ensuring fast and effective healing and recovery.

The type of dressing you choose to apply for each individual in your care will depend on a range of factors, including the nature, size and severity of the injury, and the condition of the person’s skin.

There are a variety of different types of wound dressing available here at Care Shop, so to help you choose the best option for your needs, we've put together the A-Z guide below. Read on to find out more about the different types of dressing and when to use them.

Alginate dressings

Alginate dressings are appropriate for use with moderate and high exuding wounds, which may be chronic or acute and may have some minor bleeding. These types of wound dressing are ideal for healing surgical incisions, infected wounds, skin graft sites, ulcers and secreting wounds. They can also be used to dress burns and more severe pressure sores.

These dressings absorb exudate and form a firm gel that is highly absorbent and helps to heal the wound. They contain sodium and calcium fibres derived from seaweed, which makes them able to absorb a great deal of fluid, and also able to biodegrade after use.

When changing alginate dressings, carers should follow best practice guidelines and always stick to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Alginate dressings should usually be changed every two days, depending on the nature of the wound. Changing them too often may cause dryness or allow bacteria to infiltrate the wound. As these are highly absorbent dressings, they should only be used on wounds with heavy drainage, otherwise they may dry out the wound and actually hinder healing.

Burns dressings

Specialist burns dressings are designed to maximise patient comfort and reduce pain, while also helping to heal burns and fight infection. The rapid dissipation of heat is crucial to healing, and many burns dressings contain a cooling tea tree oil gel that helps with pain relief and promotes healing.

At Care Shop, we’re dedicated to promoting best practice burns care, and we lead the field when it comes to providing products such as burns dressings for care homes and hospitals. For more advice, take a look at our guide to providing first aid for burns.

Cloth dressings

Cloth dressings are used regularly to treat the overwhelming majority of open wounds or breaks to the skin. Suitable for minor injuries such as cuts, grazes and protecting delicate skin, they are an essential item for any care home or medical facility, as well as home first aid kits.

One of the most important considerations when buying cloth dressings is ensuring that you have dressings to suit a wide range of wound sizes. Here at Care Shop, we stock cloth dressings in a variety of shapes and sizes, including rolls of dressings which can be cut to the perfect size.

Foam dressings

Foam dressings offer a great solution if you’re treating wounds of varying degrees of severity, including wounds that have exudates or exhibit odours. These dressings promote absorption of exudates from the surface of the wound, helping to provide an environment which is conducive to faster healing. At Care Shop, our range includes Mepilex and Tegaderm foam dressings in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Hydrocolloid dressings

Hydrocolloid dressings are non-breathable dressings, usually used for low to moderately exuding wounds. They are self-adhesive and require no additional taping, and the flexible material makes them comfortable and suitable for delicate skin.

Hydrocolloid dressings create moist conditions that help to heal wounds, as the surface of the dressing is coated with a substance that contains polysaccharides and other polymers that absorb water and swell to form a gel. This keeps the wound clean, protecting against infection and helping the wound to heal faster.

Hydrocolloid dressings can be used in treating a variety of wounds, including the common problem of pressure sores. They can also be used in non-infected wounds with little to moderate drainage, dry wounds, partial or full thickness wounds, and to protect intact skin or newly healed wounds.

Hydrocolloid dressings have the advantage of being impermeable to bacteria, self-adhesive, biodegradable and long-lasting, but should not be used on infected wounds or those with heavy exudate. They should be changed every few days, but may be worn for up to a week if appropriate.

Transparent dressings

Transparent film dressings allow carers to monitor the progress of wounds by making them visible through a clear film. For this reason, they are particularly useful when medical practitioners need to be able to identify potential complications and respond quickly to any signs of infection. Transparent film dressings are therefore often used on surgical incision sites, IV sites and donor sites, as well as some burns and ulcers.

As well as making it easy to monitor healing, transparent dressings also help to keep water, dirt and bacteria away from the wound, preventing it from becoming infected. They’re also breathable and flexible, helping to maximise comfort and promote fast healing.

Looking for something else?

At Care Shop, we’ve got everything you need to provide high quality wound care. Along with our wide range of dressings, we also stock a variety of bandages, cotton wool and dressing tapes. Browse our range to stock up on everything you need for your supplies, and if you can’t find what you need, give us a call on 0845 266 8744 and we’ll be happy to help. 

Using the right kind of wound dressing is absolutely essential when it comes to ensuring fast and effective healing and recovery. The type of dressing you choose to apply for each individual in your care will depend on a range of factors, including the nature, size and severity of the injury,...

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