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Wound Care: What To Do When You Get Home

Wound Care: What To Do When You Get Home


What is a chronic wound?

A wound is any break in the skin or deep tissue. These will normally heal quickly. Wounds that do not heal very easily are called chronic wounds. Chronic wounds can result from:

  • Surgical wounds that reopen
  • Skin that breaks down when there's too much pressure over a bony area
  • Injury to the feet or legs from poor circulation
  • Loss of circulation and feeling due to diabetes

Why isn't my wound healing faster?

Bacteria (germs) could be the problem. It's easy for common bacteria from your skin to get inside an open wound. This is called contamination.

  • If bacteria are in your wound, but are not reproducing and not causing a problem, this is called colonization.
  • Infection means the bacteria are reproducing, so there are a lot more of them. They are invading the soft tissue and preventing healing.

Other factors that can slow the healing process include:

  • Poor nutrition
  • Certain diseases, such as diabetes or diseases of the liver, kidney, or lungs
  • Certain treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation
  • Smoking
  • Obesity

How can I help my wound heal?

All wounds heal in the same way. First, new red tissue builds up in the bottom. Then new skin grows in from the edges and covers the red tissue. Your wound will heal fastest if you create the best conditions for new tissue to grow. This means keeping your wound clean, warm, and moist. Here are some tips:

  • Wash your hands. The most important thing you and your caregivers can do to prevent infection is wash your hands. You can use soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand rub. Wash before and after touching your wound.
  • Keep a clean dressing on your wound. Dressings keep out germs and protect the wound from injury. They also help absorb fluid that drains from the wound and could damage the skin around it
  • Be careful. Protect the wound from trauma or injury. Don’t let anything touch it or bump it
  • Eat right. Eating the right foods gives your body the building blocks it needs to heal.

Changing your dressing

Keeping a clean dressing on your wound will help it heal. Your healthcare providers can show you how to change your dressing, and let you know how long to keep each dressing on. They will recommend specific products to use. Refer to the recommended document below for step-by-step instructions.

Recommended for you: Home Instructions for Wound Care

Clean the wound

After you remove the dressing, you may see a thick, yellow, gummy film over your wound. This is good. It means the dressing is keeping the wound moist, which helps it to heal. Gently wash it off when you change the dressing. Find steps for cleaning and applying new dressing HERE.

Eating to help you heal

Having a wound puts extra demands on your body. To heal, you need more calories and more nutrients. Wounds heal faster if you get enough of the right foods — and if you don’t, they heal more slowly. These guidelines will help promote the healing process:

  • Protein. Protein provides the building material for muscle and skin repair. It also helps boost immunity. Eat 3 to 4 servings per day. Good choices include lean meats, dried beans, tofu, nuts, seeds, cheese, yogurt and eggs.
  • Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates supply the energy your body needs to heal. Good choices include whole grains, potatoes, rice, fruits and veggies, foods high in vtamin A and foods high in vitamin C.
  • Milk and dairy products. These are good sources of both carbohydrates and protein. Unless your doctor says not to eat dairy, be sure to include at least 3 servings per day.
  • Water. Water replaces fluid lost with draining wounds. Make sure you drink about 6 to 8 cups of liquids each day, unless your doctor tells you otherwise.

When should you call your healthcare provider?

The following symptoms could mean that your wound is infected and you need to contact your healthcare provider:

  • Increased pain at the wound site
  • Redness or swelling around or spreading out from the wound site
  • The wound site or surrounding area feels warm to the touch 
  • Foul odor coming from the wound after the wound has been cleaned
  • Any change in color or amount of drainage from the wound
  • Fever or chills, nausea or vomiting

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