Dressings

Dressings

In an emergency a dressing may be improvised from a range of materials. To control bleeding a bulky pad may be made from a bundle of several facial tissues or from any clean, non-fluffy material. For a minor burn or scald, a piece of clean plastic kitchen wrap may be used initially. However, if the burn is serious, it is vital to use only sterile coverings to avoid the risk of infection. Cooling should be continued until a sterile dressing is available. Very light dressings are used on a minor wound to aid healing and most have a non-adherent surface. A non-adherent dressing is often covered on one or both sides with a plastic film containing many perforations. If only one side has a plastic film, that is the side to be placed against the wound. This allows fluids to pass through into an absorbent layer, to keep the wound dry. Other types of non-adherent dressing have a special synthetic coating on one or both sides to prevent adhesion to the wound surface. The non-adherent layer is always placed against the wound. To reduce confusion and incorrect use, some manufacturers make both sides onadherent. Non-adherent dressings are used for extensive surface wounds such as an abrasion (graze) or burn. Wound dressings will be in a sterile packet, which should be opened carefully by a person with clean or gloved hands. Then, to avoid contamination of the sterile dressing, it is not removed from the opened packet until the wound is ready to be covered. Dressings used to control bleeding must be bulky to ensure that adequate pressure is applied over the injured area. The most common dressing is made of combined wool or cellulose, covered in a light cotton woven fabric, and these are generally known as ‘combine dressings’. Some major wound dressings are labelled as BPC or BP (because they are listed in the British Pharmacopoeia) and consist of a sterile combine dressing with attached bandage. They are ideal to fill crater wounds or to control severe bleeding. Sterile gauze squares are used mainly for cleaning a wound. Cotton wool should NOT be used because of loose cotton fibres that might stick to the wound during healing.

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