There are many aspects of personal hygiene that relate to wound care and the prevention of infection. Everyday activities that are carried out to maintain hygiene needs can be affected if a wound is present. In this article we will assume the wound is a minor cut that is not actively bleeding, as if you have a more serious wound, you should seek medical advice.
Cleaning a Wound
If the wound is minor and you feel medical attention is not required, the wound should be cleaned using cold, clean, running water; keeping a supply of sterile cotton gauze is very useful for cleaning a wound.
Once the wound has been cleaned, and hands have been thoroughly washed and dried, a single motion of wiping from one wound edge to the other should be performed and the gauze discarded. This should continue until all debris is removed and the wound is dry. A suitable dressing should be applied ensuring the side that is to have contact with the wound is not contaminated from contact with other surfaces or fingers.
A waterproof dressing is recommended as these tend to stay in place for a longer amount of time. When the wound has scabbed or is starting to become covered from the healing process, it is safe to remove the dressing.
All equipment used in the cleaning process should be disposed of safely and securely to avoid cross contamination to others. Materials should be placed in a separate bag, tied up and re-bagged again then kept away from the domestic living areas until the main bins are due to be emptied. No other person should ever come into contact with soiled dressings.
If you have a wound and need to bathe or shower, it is best to wrap the wound, dressing intact, in a plastic bag to prevent the dressing coming loose and the wound becoming contaminated or painful. This applies to waterproof dressing (as submersion in water will loosen the covering), and to plaster casts or any other injury.
Wounds should be thoroughly cleaned, dried and covered before any contact with food is made. Blue plasters are useful as they are easy to spot if they come off and no natural food source is blue in colour. Hands should be washed and dried properly and gloves applied to protect not only the food but the wound from possible sources of infection.
Signs and Symptoms of an Infection
If a wound is becoming infected there are certain things to look out for. The wound may become swollen, weepy and moist, with an increase in temperature and pain levels. Occasionally as an infection progresses, pus may form and the wound can become odorous and increase in size.
If this happens, advice and possibly anti-biotics may be needed, so make an appointment to see your GP or Practice Nurse.
If you have a stoma it should be treated as if passing waste into the toilet. Hands should be washed before and after emptying or changing the bag and air expelled at the same time as emptying. A stoma bag is more likely to stay in place if the site of adhesion is dry and clean.
Types of Infections
Wounds can become infected by many sources and the germs transmitted can be bacterial, viral, fungal, MRSA (and associated infections), or from a protozoa.
These germs can be transmitted through the air, by direct contact, or transferred from another area of the body, for example with faecal contamination from unwashed hands.
If a wound cannot be managed adequately at home, always seek medical advice, even if this warrants a trip to the accident and emergency department.