Rehab Select Blog

Changing Your Own Dressings: Tips for At-Home Wound Care

Posted by Bobby Stephenson

Apr 28, 2014 8:30:00 AM

changing_your_own_dressingsWound management is a critical part of the healing process, and education is key to successful wound care. Training caregivers in the proper care procedures, under the guidance of a health care professional should always be the first action taken. Dressings applied incorrectly will only prolong healing and could lead to further tissue damage.

Not All Wounds Are Equal

A health care facility will create an evidence-based treatment plan specific to the type wound involved. This eliminates the guesswork on dressing styles. For example, should a patient use hydrogen peroxide to clean every type of wound prior to dressing? No; hydrogen peroxide can damage healing tissue.

The most important step any caregiver or patient will take in healing a wound is to get proper instructions. A health care professional will take into account:

  • The nature of the wound; is it a pressure sore, burn or surgical incision?
  • The health of the patient; people with diabetes and poor circulation require special handling.
  • The healing progression; dressing options may change depending on how well the sore heals.

Without expert instruction and training, the dressing may do more harm than good, leading to further tissue breakdown or even extensive infection.

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Things to Consider When Dressing a Wound

Once a health care professional explains how to dress the wound, creating the right home environment is the next step. Lay out the supplies necessary to complete the dressing ahead of time. Double check to make sure all the necessary supplies have been gathered before removing a bandage. Be sure to have the following items:

  • Gloves
  • Cleansing agent or debridement kit, if prescribed
  • Proper dressing material gauze, medical tape, moisture-retentive dressing, gel covering

Pick a clean, stable surface to hold both the supplies and the patient. If bleeding is expected, it will be helpful to position the treatment near a sink.

Wound Care Do’s and Don’ts

There are some basic things to keep in mind when changing dressings at home. Ultimately, follow the guidelines set forth as part of the care plan given by the health care facility.

Dont use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol on chronic or healing wounds unless directed by the health care professional.

Do follow all sterile guidelines as instructed by the medical expert. This may mean wearing sterile gloves or setting up a sterile field prior to changing the dressing.

Dont just put on gloves and go. Every dressing change should begin and end with a thorough hand washing. Ask your health care professional for instructions on the proper hand washing technique and what cleansing agent to use.

Do always cover a wound unless otherwise instructed. Contrary to some thinking, letting a sore air out does not necessarily help the healing process. In some cases, a sore is left uncovered for a period of time or during a procedure such as light therapy, but only as part of the comprehensive care plan.

Dont rip off the old dressing/bandage quickly. Doing this risks reopening a healing wound. Pull the dressing off slowly, following the direction of any underlying hair growth to make it less painful.

Do follow the instructions given by the health care facility to the letter. Don’t add to those instructions. For example, not every wound benefits from topical antibiotics. A wound care center creates a plan just for the wound being dressed. Healing depends on everyone following that plan.

Wound care and accident recovery are specialized fields. Let a medical professional formulate the best care plan possible. Once an expert examines the sore, he or she can work with the patient and family members, so dressing changes are done properly.


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Topics: Wound Care