How to Clean a Wound & Place a Sterile Dressing

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Children and adults can easily become injured in the course of work or play. When a person is injured, it is essential to clean and cover the wound to prevent infection. There are five basic steps to wound care: accessing the injury, stopping bloodflow, irrigating the wound, minimizing infection, and placing a dressing.

Accessing the Injury

First, locate the wound and remove any clothing obstructing your view of the injury. If any bone, muscle, or tendons are showing, or if this is a deep puncture wound, apply pressure to the wound and immediately seek help from a medical professional.

Stopping Bloodflow

There may appear to be a lot of blood from minor cut or scrape, but the bleeding should slow in a matter of minutes. If it does not, immediately seek the aid of a medical professional. Slow the bloodflow by applying pressure to the vein supplying the blood or a few inches from the wound, toward the body.

Irrigating the Wound

Once the bloodflow has slowed, irrigate, or flush, the wound with clean water and a mild soap. If no soap is available, just use clean water. Wounds from scrapes may contain debris particles such as dirt, gravel, or glass. Make sure to flush all the particles from the wound. Leaving particles in a wound can lead to infection and the particles may heal inside the body. If you are not able to remove the particles, seek help from a medical professional.

Minimizing Infection

After flushing the wound, it is important to apply an antiseptic such as isopropryl (rubbing) alcohol or hydrogen perioxide, or an antibiotic ointment or spray. If using an antiseptic, pour dimesized amount of it onto a sterile cotton ball. Without touching the side of the cotton ball containing the antiseptic, apply the antiseptic directly onto the wound. If using a an antibiotic ointment, apply the ointment to a sterile cotton swab. Without touching the ointment, apply the ointment directly to the wound in a smooth, even layer. If using an antibiotic spray, hold the container an appropriate distance from the wound and spray an even layer across the injury. Make sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions when using antiseptics and/or antibiotic sprays or ointments.

Placing the Dressing

Choose an appropriate wound dressing based on the size and location of the wound. With smaller injuries an adhesive bandage may be used, while larger cuts or abrasions may require sterile gauze or a sterile gauze pad to be taped to the skin. If using an adhesive bandage, open the package and while only touching the adhesive portion, apply the bandage to the wound. Make sure the adhesive portion is not touching the wound itself, as this could lead to infection. If using a gauze pad or gauze from a roll, touch only the portion of the gauze which will not be in direct contact with the wound when applying. Then, securely tape the edges of the gauze to the skin around the wound. Make sure the wound is covered completely and the adhesive is not touching the wound.