Taking care of wounds can be very involved. There are multiple types of dressings, medications, and devices that can be used to help treat wounds and keep them from getting infected. There are also several things that you may need to be able to recognize in order to make sure your wound is healing well. While wound care can be a complex subject, in this blog we will provide you with the essentials that you need to know how to take the best possible care of your wound.
Healing is the most important concept in wound care and involves the body repairing the wound so it returns to the condition that it was in before the injury occurred.
Stages of Healing
Once a wound has occurred and a blood clot has formed, there are three main stages that affect how wounds heal. These three stages are:
- Inflammatory Stage - This is the body’s initial response to a wound. In this stage, the body gets rid of bacteria and debris in the wound. The wound becomes inflamed as the body supplies immune cells and additional blood to the site of the wound. During this stage, the wound and the skin around it becomes reddened, swollen, and warm.
- Proliferative Stage - The proliferative stage is the stage of healing in which the body starts to make new cells where the wound occurred. In this stage, the wound area starts to get smaller and new skin may begin to appear. During this stage, the healing area will be scarred and more fragile.
- Remodeling - Remodeling is the final stage of wound healing and occurs once the wound is closed and the new cells have been produced. This stage can take months or years, and involves the new cells that have been produced becoming more developed and helps the skin to return as close to normal as possible. Scarring will improve during this stage, and the skin will return to its strongest condition.
Knowing the different stages of healing can help you to understand what is happening to your wound and what to expect.
Promoting healing is one of the key components of wound care. Healing promotion involves keeping the wound clean and free of infection or bacteria and protecting it so that it can heal without being disturbed. Depending on the wound, this can involve special bandages or wound care materials. Healing promotion can also involve having a healthy diet that includes protein, which the wound will need to heal.
Infection is one of the biggest complications affecting wound healing. Infection keeps the wound in the inflammatory stage, the first stage of wound healing, and prevents the body from healing the wound further. Signs of infection include:
- Warmth in or around the wound
- Redness in the skin around the wound
- Swelling in or around the wound
- Pus in or draining from the wound
- Fever or chills
- Elevated body temperature
If it festers within the wound, an infection can also spread into the bloodstream, creating a dangerous level of infection that can cause injury, or in severe and untreated cases, may even lead to death.
Of course, preventing infection from occurring in the first place is ideal. You can prevent infection by keeping your wound as clean as possible and using any preventative antibiotic medications or creams that your wound care team has prescribed. If your wound care team has given you specific instructions on when to change your dressing or how to clean your wound, it will be very important to follow these instructions to keep your wound as clean as possible. Depending upon the type of wound, you may also need a tetanus vaccine to prevent a tetanus infection.
Infection in a wound can be serious if it is not treated, but with proper treatment most infected wounds can fully heal. Infected wounds can be treated with specific dressings that are designed to kill bacteria in the wound or antibiotic medications that can work to treat the infection from within the body. There is a chance that severe wound infections may require surgery; however, even these infections can be treated and experience a high level of healing.
Wounds may have drainage that must be controlled or treated. Depending on the type of drainage and amount, you may need different types of dressings or drains. By understanding the different types of drainage, you can understand what should be done for them and how they should be treated.
Bleeding from a wound can be normal, especially if the wound is from a surgery. If there is bleeding, it should only be in small amounts and should not bleed through a bandage in a twelve-hour period. If you have a small amount of bleeding from a wound after surgery, your surgeon should be able to instruct you on how much is normal. Bleeding from a wound may require additional treatment if it is:
- New bleeding from a wound that was not previously bleeding
- Bleeding that bleeds through a bandage in less than twelve hours
- Bleeding that squirts
- Bleeding that makes you dizzy, lightheaded, weak, or pale
Bleeding from a wound that just occurred should be controlled by applying pressure that keeps the wound from bleeding further. Normal bleeding for existing wounds can be treated by applying gauze or another absorbent dressing that can catch the bleeding as it slowly oozes.
Serous fluid is a clear fluid that sometimes oozes from wounds. This fluid is produced by the body normally during wound healing and is not usually something to be concerned about. If you are having serous fluid draining from a wound, a piece of gauze or absorbent material can help to catch the drainage.
Pus is a tan fluid that can ooze from wounds that are infected. Pus contains dead bacterial cells and white blood cells. Pus can also be a darker brown, yellow, or greenish color and may smell unpleasant. If you have pus draining out of a wound, it typically means that you have an infection. This will require assessment and treatment by a member of your wound care team.
Advanced Wound Care
Wound care is a very technical field that includes several devices, dressing, medicines, and procedures that vary based on the type of wound and individual circumstances. Having a medical assessment by a wound care expert is an essential part of wound care, as these trained professionals are able to determine which types of advanced wound care treatments are best for your specific circumstances.