With the variety of wound care dressings available on the market today, it can be challenging for a caregiver to know which type of dressing to select for a particular wound. The basic dressing should provide a moist healing environment to promote cell movement and prevent drying out. Wound tissue that is dry is much more prone to infection, scarring, and pain.
Wound care is different in everyone and depends on a number of factors. Age and skin type are two factors that determine how you manage a wound and avoid infection. Other factors to be considered are wound location, and the type and size of the injury.
If you are dealing with a serious injury, do not try to treat it yourself. A clinician should assess and mange the wound to avoid complications.
Types of Wound Care Dressings
Cloth Dressings: Cloth or gauze dressings are the first choice for basic wound care. Dry gauze should not be applied directly to skin wounds as they are painful to remove. Most often these are the most well know dressing after a band-aid. They are available in many shapes and sizes.
Foam Dressings: Foam dressings are made of absorbent sponge, is non-adherent and does not damage healthy tissue. It provides thermal insulation as well as a moist healing environment and is highly conforming.
Film Dressings: Film dressings are used when the clinician wants to monitor a wound for infection as with more complicated injuries. They can be used on surgical sites, burns and ulcers, and IV sites. They are more comfortable and more flexible than other dressings.
Hydrocolloid Dressings: Hydrocolloids are complex dressings containing polymers that slowly absorb wound fluids and form a gel. They diminish the bacterial growth by lowering the pH of the wound. However, due to their occlusive nature, they should not be used in wounds susceptible for infection. They come in pads, sheets or filler forms and are commonly used on burns, necrotic wounds, and on venous ulcers.
Hydrogel Dressings: Hydrogels are organic polymers that are made up of about 90% water that is suspended in a gel base. They are often used in wounds that are at risk of drying up. They sometimes have a cooling gel added to them for extra comfort. They can be used on infected wounds and first and second degree burns.
Alginate Dressings: These dressings are very absorbent, up to 20 times its weight and are so useful for wounds with moderate to heavy drainage. They need to be changed more frequently. They are composed of brown seaweed, often called calcium alginate. Drainage is absorbed by an ion exchange to form a gel, which then conforms to the shape of the wound.
Collagen Dressings: These dressings are useful for chronic wounds with a slow healing time. They can stimulate the growth of collagen fibers for new tissue and blood vessel growth which helps wound healing. They can stay in place up to seven days and come in the form of gels, sheets, pads, powders and particles. Some of these dressings have silver which add antimicrobial activity. Collagen can also promote the removal of dead tissue and help tighten the wound’s surrounding tissue.