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How to Change a Wound Dressing

How to change a wound dressing

Changing a wound dressing is a simple process, but one that’s important to do correctly to avoid infection. Even if you’ve never changed a dressing before, these seven simple steps will guide you through it with flying colors.

1. Gather the following items before you start and place them on a sterile surface mat to keep them clean:

  • Sterile gloves
  • Saline water
  • Scissors
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Gauze pads or rolled gauze
  • Non-stick pad
  • Tape or wrap (depending on the location of the wound)

Tip: Cut the tape or wrap ahead of time to make it easier. Also, if you’ve never changed this particular dressing before, take note of how the existing pad is secured so you can follow suit with the new one.

2. Wash and dry your hands, and put on a new pair of sterile gloves.

3. Carefully loosen the old dressing, then remove it. Use a little saline water to loosen any sticky parts. Be careful not to remove any tape the surgeon used to close the wound.

4. Remove a gauze pad or sponge from its wrapping (avoid the temptation to do this earlier so that it remains sterile). Wet the gauze with saline water and carefully clean any visible blood or other fluids from the wound.

5. Let the wound dry while you check for any signs of infection. Then apply antibiotic ointment to the wound.

6. Apply a new nonstick pad to the wound, plus any extra gauze it may need for cushioning.

7. Finally, secure the pad with tape or with a wrap, depending on where the wound is located.

  • If you’re using tape, apply it to two or more edges of the pad so it’s secure.
  • If you’re using a wrap, wrap it around the bandage so that it’s firm but comfortable.

You’re done! Dressings should be changed at least twice a day or whenever blood has soaked through the bandage.


©Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. 2015

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