A patient can take an active role in their own care in the hospital and at home. It is important to wash hands before and after caring for a wound. Hand washing is the best plan to prevent infection.
How was the wound closed?
Stitches that were used to close a wound or placed just under the skin may be visible. The stitches bring the skin edges together to promote healing and reduce scarring. Sometimes a combination of stitches, staples and closure tapes (also called Steri-strips) are used to close the wound.
Can the wound get wet?
The wound needs to be kept dry for at least 24 hours (one day) or longer. After this period of time, the patient may take a brief shower. Pat the wound dry with a clean towel and apply the dressing as instructed. Do not swim, take a bath or soak the wound until the stitches are removed.
Ways to keep the area clean:
- Clean the wound gently with soap and water at least once a day until the stitches are removed. If the wound is in an area that is likely to get dirty, a clean Band-Aid or dressing may be worn over the wound. Take the Band-Aid or dressing off when there is no drainage so the wound can air dry. Change the dressing at least once each day, or more often if it gets wet or dirty.
- Do not use any creams, lotions or gels unless the doctor says it’s okay. For small children, keep loose clothing over the wound to prevent picking or opening of the area from scratching.
- Do not pull off any scabs. Scabs protect the fragile new tissue.
- If Steri-strips are being used, the Steri-strip edges may begin to curl. Steri-strips may be removed when they are barely attached to the skin, usually after five to seven days.
What’s the best way to care for an open wound?
Sometimes a wound will be left open to drain. Also, wounds that are not fresh may be left open to lessen the chance of an infection from the germs already inside the area. A nurse or doctor will give specific instructions and discuss healing time.
When should the doctor be called?
Some redness around the wound is normal. The following signs and symptoms should be reported to a doctor:
• Increasing redness, swelling, tenderness or warmth around your wound
• Drainage from the wound
o Foul odor
o Unusual color
o Increased bleeding
• Temperature of 101˚ Fahrenheit or greater
• Increasing pain
• Red streaks going up the arm or leg
Will medicines be given too?
Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Motrin/Advil (ibuprofen) may be helpful for pain. Sometimes a doctor will prescribe a stronger pain medicine. Antibiotics may also be ordered.
Call the doctor’s office the next business day to schedule a follow-up appointment. If the condition worsens and you are not able to reach your doctor, you may go to the Saint Francis Health System Trauma Emergency Center.