Image of island wound dressing

Remedy | Dressing Wounds

I love dressing wounds. I can’t tell you why I do, but it’s super satisfying on multiple levels.  

Firstly, I’ve had the benefit of some wound training that, way back in the old days – some 15 years ago –  Smith and Nephew ran to educate pharmacists about their dressings. Then, once you learn about the common wounds seen in pharmacy and the variations in wound dressing used in a community setting, you’re set. 

There’s a whole gondola to choose from as far as products go, all of them slight variations of each other. 

So, I choose the dressing based on the size of the wound, how deep it is, how much exudate or blood there is, if the patient needs padding, no padding, waterproof, self adhering, flexible… and the list goes on.

I’ve been told dressing a wound is something many people don’t think they can get done in a pharmacy setting, which is interesting to hear because wound dressing  is something I find myself doing a lot.

Often people come in with a cut, a graze, a burn or something looking quite bloody and it seems not severe enough to head to hospital and they possibly think they wouldn’t be able to get in to see a doctor so the pharmacy is the most convenient pit stop to get some guidance asking us  Is it infected? Will I live?

I can stomach a lot of blood and gore so as long as it’s not infected or too deep to need stitches, I’ll usually offer to clean it up or put a dressing on it.

A lot of people don’t realise that an open wound left to scab takes longer to heal and the heal quality is not as good as a wound covered with a good quality dressing. These days, the technology of dressings is impressive. They are breathable, waterproof, hypoallergenic and some stay on for weeks (I had a hospital supplied dressing that was waterproof and stayed on for 3 weeks once!) all the while keeping the wound clean so it doesn’t get infected. Gone are the days you “air out” a graze so it will scab over and not get infected. Moist wound dressing is “in” and has been “in” for about 20 +yrs.

This wound is not too terribly exciting. The top layers of skin have come off,  so it’s even more important to cover it up to minimise infection. The chances of infection in this instance are low anyway because it’s dried up. Putting a dressing on is most likely going to soften it up and make it feel and look more “mushy”. But that’s okay, a moist environment allows for better healing – stay tuned and I’ll explain how this happens next time when I have an example of a more heavily exudating wound!

The Smith and Nephew dressing pictured above is called an island dressing – it has an island patch in the middle to soak up pus or blood. Island dressings are one of my favourite to use (can you tell I really love talking about dressings?). If I had to choose one dressing to keep in my first aid kit, it would be this most versatile one.

Why are they my favourite?

  • They are non stick
  • The are waterproof – to shower but not to swim in
  • They are great value because they last 7 days + (packs come in 3’s or 5’s depending on the brand, you can also buy them singley)

The things that make them a little tricky to use at home for those who haven’t used them a lot:

  • They are not great for covering curved surfaces – no good for knuckles and knees 
  • The film part won’t stick on hairy areas – no good for hairy males
  • They scrunch up easily, just like glad wrap, so you need to get it right the first time. Opening one for the first time is a little hit and miss.

When the dressing comes off, all the skin that was dry to begin with will become “macerated” – so wet and mushy. This tissue was already dead to begin with and would never have been revived. It will look grey (that’s the colour of dead tissue ). You’d wash the dead tissue off with sterile saline water, pat it dry then put another dressing on for another week or so. The healing tissue looks pink, the dead tissue is grey.

Once it has healed over (which I’m thinking, for this wound, would be around 2-3 weeks) you can stop the dressings.

People are often very pleasantly surprised that we will do this in store. For some, it’s either something they’re not confident to attempt, don’t love doing or can’t be bothered to take the time to go the extra mile. For me, it’s something I enjoy doing (it’s a challenge) and I love that I can help someone in this way.

If you have a wound you’re unsure how to tackle or concerns about, come in, I’ll look at it for you and, if I can dress it for you, I will.

  • Yen, Founder + Pharmacist

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