‘Basic wound care’ refers to the level of care/response provided by the first aider, not the level of the wound. These wounds may be minor or major. The care of a wound refers to basic cleaning of the wound before any dressing is applied to the wound to reduce the risk of infection prior to further treatment.
Basic Care of a Wound
Consists of the following fundamental steps:
1) Washing your hands
2) Cleaning the wound and around the wound
3) Protecting the wound
4) Changing the dressing
1 – Wash Your Hands
Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and running water. Rinse hands and dry completely. Wear disposable protective gloves. Always follow this process before administering first aid. This helps avoid cross-infection.
2 – Cleaning the Wound and Around the Wound
Use clear running water under moderate pressure to rinse the wound. Washing the wound removes as much of the dirt, debris, and bacteria as possible which helps to reduce the risk of infection.
Also, clean around the wound with soap and a washcloth. If after washing, some dirt or debris remains, use sterile tweezers to remove the particles.
Gently pat the wound site and surrounding area dry by using non-fluffy material such as a pad of tissues or a clean towel.
3 – Protecting the Wound
- A dressing refers to the material that is placed directly over the wound
- It is preferably sterile to reduce the chance of infection, and a material that will not readily stick to the wound and cause difficulty removing
- The main aim is to provide a fairly sterile environment for wound healing to occur, and to assist in reducing the risk of infection
- A pad is an absorbent material placed over the dressing. It assists in controlling bleeding and absorbing any pus or fluids that may seep from the wound
- A bandage is placed over the pad and can be used for compression to reduce bleeding, and to keep the pad in place
4 – Changing the Dressing
Change the dressing regularly at least once a day or whenever the dressing becomes soiled or wet. Especially for sensitive skin use hypoallergenic dressings.
Once the wound has healed enough to make infection unlikely, the wound can be left uncovered as exposure to air will aid in the healing rate of the wound.
5 – Monitor for Infection
If the casualty experiences any of the following signs in their wound a medical opinion should be advised as an infection is likely:
- Pus or discharge from the wound
- Pain that is not improving
- Fever, or not feeling well generally
Certain wounds are at a high risk of infection and require further medical assessment and supervision.
- Animal and human bites
- If the wound was caused by a particularly dirty or rusty object
- If the casualty has pre-existing conditions that put them at high risk, such as diabetes or if they are in any way immuno-suppressed (their immune system is compromised), such as with chemotherapy treatment
- Burn wounds are also at a high risk of infection, especially partial and full thickness burns