How to apply a First Aid Dressing

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Treating a wound needs proper care and monitoring. A young paramedic had to learn the hard way that not all wounds are the same, when through a freak accident a family member encountered a very bad burn, which later turned out to be third degree burns as they were unfortunately diabetic.

Not all wounds can be treated the same as there are various types and degrees of severity. Therefore it’s important to know how to treat them, what to use, what not to use and the types of bandages and wound dressings available for usage in and around the workplace and more specifically in your First Aid kit.

First Aid Dressing

Types of wounds

Let’s look at what a wound is, and more specifically the different types of wounds you might encounter. A wound is classified as a break in the skin or layers of the skin or damage to tissue. There are various types of wounds namely: Abrasions, Lacerations, Incisions, Contusions, Puncture wounds, Amputations, and Ballistic trauma, or Burn wounds.  

  • Abrasions is a scraping of the skin
  • Lacerations are deep cuts from trauma 
  • Incisions can be classified as a cut, but more of a clean cut like going for surgery 
  • Contusions are what we know as bruising 
  • Puncture wounds can be from sharp objects like knives or stepping into a nail 
  • Ballistic trauma are known bullet wounds 
  • Burn wounds can be thermal, electrical, radiation burns or from chemicals.

Types of first aid dressings

In your First Aid kit you should have access to. the following first aid dressings, gauze bandages or dressings, which are specifically designed to clean wounds. (Do not use cotton wool as this leaves behind fiber in wounds). Paraffin gauze dressings are the best choice for small burns and cuts that have lost a small amount of skin. Permitting drainage through the gauze dressing onto a secondary absorbent dressing, calms and shields the wound. 

Paper cuts usually just need a plaster but Lacerations will probably need proper bandaging. Amputations will need a torniquet. (When bleeding from a severe wound, such as one from a gunshot, stabbing, or heavy machinery accident, bands known as tourniquets are put around the arm or leg.)

Many different bandages are available like pressure bandages for severe bleeding like arterial bleeding. (Towels can also be used). The smaller dressings  (Padded dressings) can be applied for wounds like head injuries. Burn wounds need moist dressings applied, like (Burnshield), found in most First Aid kits, after applying cold water to soothe the burn. Amputations will need a torniquet or improvised torniquet.  

Triangular bandages can be used for support as a sling during fractures when splinting.

paraffin gauze dressing

Wound treatment

Why is wound treatment, changing of dressings and monitoring wounds important?

Infection and sepsis can easily occur. Sepsis is when the body reacts to an infection incorrectly treated. Septic shock can develop from sepsis. This significant decrease in blood pressure has the potential to harm the liver, kidneys, lungs, which could turn fatal. When cleaning wounds, you need a proper Antiseptic solution – (diluted) 50% water and 50% antiseptic and preferably paraffin gauze. Wearing gloves further protects you and your patient. Wipe the wound to clean and sterilize the wound, depending on the severity of bleeding associated with the wound. Once cleaned you can look at the type of wound you are dealing with.

Bandaging a wound needs special care as applying it too tightly can cause complications later. Always communicate with your patient if conscious. Bandaging the wound too loosely and serves no purpose. Always remember to keep fingers and toes open to check circulation regularly. 

Changing dressings once a day or following guidelines from a medical practitioner is important to ensure maximum results and help with recovery. As mentioned earlier in this Blog, patients who are known diabetics or weak immune patients already face difficulty with wound healing and complications so it’s even more crucial to monitor wounds, change dressings on a regular basis and look out for any changes in wounds that might indicate infection. Redness around the wound, pus seeping from the wound or your patient feeling ill or showing clear signs of fever, medical intervention is needed immediately.

Keep practicing and building on your first aid skills. Proper application of the correct wound dressing  is important and remember to seek professional medical help for serious wounds

First Aid Kit Checklist

Ensure that you always have a correctly stocked First Aid Box in your workplace as per the Regulation 7.

Download our free checklist to keep on hand so that your are to respond to emergencies effectively.