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The Essential First Aid Course, Part 3: Dressing Wounds

Why is dressing and bandaging important to wound care?

Wounds are physical breaks in the skin that increase a persons risk for infection especially in hot and humid environments where the person is exposed to the elements.

Dressing a wound protects the injured skin from direct contact with the environment and, to an extent; it also prevents contaminants and pathogens from entering the body through the wound.

An ideal dressing has three parts or layers: sterile dressing, gauze and bandage.

The first layer is the sterile dressing.

The purpose of non-stick sterile dressings is to directly protect the wound from further contamination. The non-stick variety is highly recommended as it will not damage the already injured skin tissue when the dressing is replaced.

The second layer is the absorbent gauze.

This layer is placed on top of the non-stick sterile dressing. The main task of absorbent gauze is to draw away exudate from the wound.

Applying a gauze will increase the comfort of the patient and will also reduce the chances of infection due to pooling of pus and other body fluids that may be draining out of the wound.

The final layer is the bandage.

The function of the bandage is to hold the two lower layers in place so they can wick away fluids and protect the wound properly. Gauze and dressings are essentially useless without proper bandaging as they will likely fall off when the patients moves about.

How can you effectively manage gaping wounds?

A gaping wound is characterized by a large break that clearly separates the skin and reveals the layer/s tissue beneath the epidermis. Knife cuts and other similar injuries can easily producing gaping and bleeding wounds.

A healthy child or adult would be able to heal a gaping wound on his own, provided that he has a nutritious diet and the wound itself does not become infected. Oxygen-rich air in elevated environments can help promote faster healing of torn tissues.

What is a steri strip?

In a survival situation , it would be best to use steri strips to close gaping wounds and promote faster healing. Steri strips are durable and highly adhesive strips of cloth that are placed perpendicularly to a gaping wound to bring the two separate edges together.

A steri strip promotes faster healing by maintaining the contact between the two separate lines of broken skin and also prevents larger contaminants from entering the wound. A straight and neat scar will emerge from the site of a gaping wound that has been held together by a steri strip.

Steri strips come in different sizes and lengths; I would recommend getting several boxes of varying sizes so you can treat a variety of gaping wounds.

Steri strips should be placed before the sterile dressing. It is an ideal option if suturing is not possible. Sometimes, physicians use steri strips instead of suturing to immediately reduce the discomfort of the patient and control the bleeding.

Can steri strips be used for deep, gaping wounds?

Using steri strips to close wounds is only ideal for relatively shallow wounds.

If the wound is several layers deep (e.g. the wound has reached the fat and fascia), a steri strip will not be able to close the wound completely.

A qualified medical professional will be able to close the wound through suturing. Suturing of deep and invasive wounds is a sensitive process; each torn layer is individually closed before the final, external layer is stitched shut.

If a member of your family has been injured during a disaster and a large and deep wound results from the accident, do not place a steri strip on the wound.

In such situations, a steri strip can actually hamper proper healing. Instead, clean and dress the large wound once or twice a day to let it heal from the innermost torn layer.

Your main concern when caring for deep wounds is infection and possible gangrene.

Application of povidone iodine and hydrogen peroxide can help reduce the risk of bacterial infection if done properly. Be sure to stock a significant quantity of wound disinfectants, sterile gauze, bandages and dressings so youre always ready to apply the proper first aid.

What should be done if the wound is a flappy type?

A slice-type injury can cause a portion of the skin to literally lift from the layer underneath.

Do not be afraid to treat such wounds. After sanitizing your hands, gently lift the flap of skin and clean the affected area beneath. Apply the dressing around the flap of skin and bandage it to close the gaping area. Applying several steri strips will help speed up healing, too.

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