Clean and Dress a Wound

Edited by Olivia, Eng, Lynn, Sobi and 3 others

A wound is an injury to tissue (this article will focus on skin) that may be caused from a sharp or blunt object, pressure ulcers (decubitus ulcers), burns, or friction, to name a few.

Depending on the type of wound, the severity of the wound and the general health of the patient, these are all factors that come into play when deciding the best type of wound care to use.

There are currently numerous choices for different dressings and cleaning solutions. The purpose of cleaning the wound is to minimize or preferably eliminate infection. Cleaning removes loose debris and bacteria, and provides an optimal environment for healing. It also allows you to see the wound and make any needed changes in wound care. Depending on the wound type and if a physician is needed, they will write orders on how she/he wants the wound care done. In more severe cases, a physician will defer to the wound care specialist's expertise and she/he will choose the best type of wound care.

The purpose of wound care is to remove debris and contaminants without damaging healthy tissue and to promote optimal healing.

What Are the Different Types of Wounds?

  1. 1
    An abrasion is superficial damage to the first layer of skin. They are usually caused by scraping against something, like skinning your knee on the road. Abrasions may cover a small area of skin like your knee or it can encompass a large area, for example from road rash from laying a motorcycle down and sliding along the road.
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  2. 2
    A laceration is a wound caused by the tearing of the skin. This type of wound is often irregular and has jagged edges. Falling from a tree and branches tearing into unprotected skin can cause mild to severe lacerations.
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  3. 3
    A contusion is a another name for a bruise. They may be caused by direct or repeated blows to any part of the body and damaging underlying muscle fibers and connective tissue without breaking the skin. A contusion can result from falling or jamming the body against a hard surface.
    Contusion with laceration and abrasion.jpg
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  4. 4
    Decubitus ulcer
    Also known as bedsores/pressure ulcers. These are injuries to skin and underlying tissue and are caused by disrupted blood circulation, resulting from prolonged pressure on the skin. They usually develop on skin that covers bony areas, such as; elbows, heels, ankles, hips and tailbone. [1]
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  5. 5
    Penetrating wounds
    These are result of trauma that breaks through the full thickness of skin into underlying tissue and organs. These entail stab wounds, surgical wounds, cuts, and gunshot wounds.
    Stab Wounds.jpg
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  6. 6
    Miscellaneous wounds
    These encompass thermal wounds (burns & frost bite), chemical wounds, electrical wounds, animal/insect stings and bites.
    Minor scald burn.jpg
    Chemical burn from sodium hydroxide.jpg
    Electrical wounds.jpg
    Animal bite.jpg
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Treatments for different types of wounds

  • Different types of wounds require different types of care. Knowing what to use and what not to use aids in optimal healing.
  • All wounds should be cleaned and removal of foreign materials if possible. Some require flushing, some require debridement, and some require sutures. Some wounds require special cleaning solutions, dressings, and medications to wound beds.
  • How the wound itself is cleaned can make a difference as to whether bacteria in introduced into the wound bed or not. For example; Linear-shaped wound (such as an incision), gently wipe from top to bottom in one motion, starting directly over the wound and moving outward on both sides.
  • Always start from least dirty to most dirty. For open wound (such as a pressure ulcer), gently wipe in circles, starting directly over the wound and moving outward. When cleaning wounds, sometimes numerous pieces of gauze are used to prevent continued contamination of the area.

How to Clean and Dress Minor Cuts and Scrapes.

  1. 1
    Wash your hands thoroughly
    By washing your hands, you are eliminating the chances of infecting the wound that you will care for. Use gloves to protect yourself and to keep from contaminating the wound further. Never touch the wound directly with your hands.
    Wash hands.jpg
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  • 2
    Clean the wound
    Rinse the cut or scrape with cool, clean water to remove dirt and debris. Hold the area under running water or pour clean water over it from a cup. Do not submerge it into the water container, as this contaminates the water that you will use to clean the wound. Use plain soap to clean the wound and rinse with clean water.
    Wash wounds.jpg
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  • 3
    Cleaning solutions
    For most superficial cuts and scrapes, clean tap water should suffice. There are products that you can purchase, such as sterile water or normal saline. It is recommended to avoid using, (unless advised by your healthcare provider) hydrogen peroxide, iodine, or rubbing alcohol, as these may inhibit the healing properties of the wound. Use sterile tweezers to pick out small stones or dirt. If a splinter has become lodged in the wound and you cannot remove it, bring the person to the nearest clinic or doctor.
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  • 4
    After ensuring bleeding has stopped and the wound is clean, using a sterile bandage or gauze pad and tape will help to keep wound clean and protect it from reopening and facilitate healing. Never just rip a dressing off, as that may further injure the wound. Gently pull off in the direction of hair growth, using sterile water or saline solution may help with dressing removal and prevent further injury to the wound. [2]
    Secure dressing with medical plaster tapes.jpg
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  • 5
    Seek medical attention
    Always call your medical provider with questions or concerns and/or if the wound is on the face, eyes, mouth, genital area or covers a large portion of the body. Also, if you notice signs of inflammation or infection such as redness, swelling, fever, pus or drainage, if you are unable to stop the bleeding after ten minutes of firm steady pressure, if the wound is deep or over a joint, or if you're unable to clean the wound, seek medical attention. In addition, a tetanus booster may be needed to prevent complications. Always seek medical care for any animal or human bites.
    Afghan, Coalition Doctors Treat Burned Boy.jpg
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  • If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


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    Categories : Health & Wellness

    Recent edits by: Grimm, Doug Collins, Sobi

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