Caring for your wound

This content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide medical advice or to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease or condition. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider.

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Closing the Wound

There are several types of wounds that happen as a result of an injury to the skin. These include puncture wounds, abrasions, cuts, skin tears, and bruises. While many small wounds can be treated at home with first aid care, any large cuts, deep cuts from puncture wounds, or wounds that won’t stop bleeding will need medical treatment. Stitches or staples may still be needed on some smaller, shallow cuts if they’re located on the face, lips or head. Immediate medical care will minimize infection and scarring.

The most common methods for a physician to close an open wound include stitches (sutures) or surgical staples; however, butterfly tape or skin glue can also be used to close open wounds.

Tetanus Shots

Tetanus is a disease caused by bacteria, which typically enters the body from a wound. It can be dangerous to your health and even life-threatening.
Ask your doctor if you need a tetanus shot. If you haven’t had one, if you aren’t up to date with tetanus vaccines, or if it’s been more than 5 or 10 years since the last tetanus booster, you may need one at the time of your injury to prevent this disease. Tetanus can occur from any wound, but it’s especially important to take note if the wound was caused by a dirty or rusty object; examples include hardware nails or any objects with dirt, feces, soil, dust, or saliva on it.

To prevent infection and aid the healing process, it’s critical to take good care of the wound once it’s been cared for and closed by a physician. The following recommendations are only general guidelines, so be sure to follow your doctor and hospital discharge instructions, which are specific to your personal care.

Caring for Stitches & Surgical Staples

To close your wound using​ stitches ​(sutures), a doctor will use a special thread to sew the skin together. To close a wound using ​surgical staples​, your doctor will staple the skin together using a special metal.

  • Keep the wound dry for the first 48 hours, although this can vary between 1-3 days.
  • If a dressing (gauze or bandage) was used to cover your wound, keep it on and dry for the first 24 hours. If it becomes dirty or wet, change the dressing.
  • Keep the wound clean and change the dressing daily, or as needed.
  • Gently wash the area with soap and water 1 to 2 times a day, patting it dry with a clean towel. Do not rub over the stitches or staples.
  • If permitted, apply an antibiotic ointment on the wound (i.e. Neosporin).
  • After the first 24 hours the wound can typically remain uncovered. However, if there is a chance that the wound will get dirty or rub against clothing, it’s best to re- apply a dressing to avoid irritation or infection.

Signs of Infection

It’s important to recognize the warning signs of an infection. Signs of an infection include: ¯ ​Pus or increased drainage ​coming from the wound

  • ​A​ foul odor (smell)​ coming from the wound
  • Increased ​redness ​and​ warmth ​around the wound
  • The wound is increasingly ​painful or very sore​ to the touch
  • ​There is ​swelling​ around the wound
  • The incision is ​taking longer to heal​ than expected
  • You develop a ​fever
  • If there are any signs of infection, or if the area between the stitches or staples opens up, call your healthcare provider.

    Proper Hand Washing
    One of the most important factors to avoid infection is proper hand washing before touching or caring for your wound. Be sure to lather your hands with soap, rubbing them together for about 40-60 seconds. Clean under your fingernails and in between fingers. Rinse thoroughly with warm water while pointing your fingers downward. Use a paper towel (or clean cloth) t

  • Prepare for Discharge

    While you’re in the hospital, your healthcare team does most of the care associated with caring for your wound, but ​proper home care is critical to your road to recovery​. Be sure to ask the following questions ​before​ leaving the hospital.

    1) Ask your nurse to allow you to change your own dressing while she/he watches so that they can provide feedback and guide you.
    2) Ask how often and for how long you will need to change the dressing or care for your wound. Then determine if you have enough materials, such as gauze or tape to dress the wound.
    3) Ask about the antibiotic prescription you will need, if any, and what OTC treatments you can use, such as antibiotic ointments for the wound.
    4) Ask about what you can and cannot do when caring for your wound. Are you allowed to wash the wound with regular soap and water? When can you shower?
    5) Ask about warning signs. What should alert you? What are the warning signs of infection? What happens if the incision starts to open or stitches look pulled?

    Ask when you should return to the hospital to have any stitches or staples removed.

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