You can take an active role in your own care in the hospital and at home. It is important to wash your hands before and after caring for your wound. Hand washing is the best plan to prevent infection.
How was my wound closed?
You may be able to see stitches that were used to close the wound or stitches may be under the skin. 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 I get the wound wet?
The wound needs to be kept dry for at least 24 hours (one day) or longer. After this period of time, you 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.
How do I 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 your doctor tells you to use them. 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 you have Steri-strips, the Steri-strip edges may begin to curl. You may remove the Steri-strips when they are barely attached to the skin, usually after 5 to 7 days.
How do I 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. Your nurse or doctor will talk with you about specific instructions and healing time.
When should I call my doctor?
Some redness around the wound is normal. The following signs and symptoms should be reported to your 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 I be given medicines?
Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Motrin/Advil (ibuprofen) may be helpful for pain. Sometimes your doctor will prescribe a stronger pain medicine. Your doctor may also order antibiotics.
Call your doctor’s office the next working day to schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor.
If your condition worsens and you are not able to reach your doctor, you may go to the Saint Francis Health System Trauma Emergency Center.