Wound care sometimes involves changing your bandage to keep your cut, scrape or incision clean and free of infection. What do you do if your dressing is stuck to your wound? There are many choices for wound dressings, so speak with your doctor to find out which one is right for your type of wound to minimize the chance of a stuck dressing.
Gauze is a common wound dressing that allows for absorption of bodily fluids and helps aid in healing. Gauge comes in many shapes and sizes, so find the right size for your type of wound. Gauze is designed to be permeable and allow air to flow in and out.
You may find that your gauze bandage sticks to your healing wound, making the dressing change a little more difficult.
It is because of this that gauze may not be recommended for every wound, as a moist environment provides optimal healing conditions for wounds, according to the British Medical Journal. Proceed with caution to avoid re-opening scabs and causing yourself more pain.
Removing Stuck Gauze From a Wound
The Community Eye Health Journal stresses the importance of maintaining a sterile environment when changing a dressing 3. In order to reduce contaminants from entering the wound and causing infection, or reducing the spread of an already present infection, hand washing is important.
Wash your hands with soap and warm water before you remove your old gauze bandage. If you are worried about infection, using sterile gloves is also an option. Always wash hands before and after using gloves. Having clean hands will reduce the chance of introducing dirt and bacteria to your wound.
Treating Wounds With Salt Water
Slowly and carefully, begin to remove the old gauze from your wound, moving in the direction of hair growth if your bandage covers your arm, leg or other hairy area of your body. If a scab has formed and the gauze is stuck to the wound, stop immediately to reduce pulling off the scab and causing tissue damage.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine suggests wetting the dressing if it is stuck to a wound 14. Plain water or a saline solution are both acceptable when working to remove stubborn stuck on gauze. A salt water solution using 1/4 teaspoon of table salt for every quart of water is an appropriate amount. You may not need as large a quantity of salt water for a smaller wound.
Combine the ingredients well and fill a basin or bucket with the solution. A review article published in the Journal of Athletic Training did not find any differences in infection rates using tap water or a saline solution when cleaning wounds 5. Soak your bandage-covered wound in the water or saline solution for a few minutes, then try to remove the bandage. Stubborn scabs may require several soak-and-try removal attempts.
How to Care for a Surgical Scar
Remove the bandage once the scab has softened adequately, and pat dry the affected area with a clean towel or allow to air dry. Dress the wound with a fresh bandage as directed by your medical care provider. Place the dirty gauze in a trash receptacle and wash hands again.
- The Community Eye Health Journal.
- Remove the bandage once the scab has softened adequately, and pat dry the affected area with a clean towel or allow to air dry.
What Not To Do When Changing a Dressing
You may have heard the phrase, "rip it off just like a Band-Aid."
That is not the recommended method when trying to remove gauze that is stuck to a wound. Do not leave dressings or gauze on wounds for long periods of time, change them as often as your healthcare provider suggests.
When a scab forms, often a clear fluid will ooze from the injury. This helps keep the area clean, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine 4. This can also become sticky; another reason to change dressings often.
- You may have heard the phrase, "rip it off just like a Band-Aid."
- When a scab forms, often a clear fluid will ooze from the injury.
When to See a Doctor
If your wound is extremely painful and overly tender after this time, you may have an infection. It is best to consult your primary healthcare team to take the next steps for healing.
- Your immune system will start to work immediately and your wound may become pink, or maybe even swollen and tender.
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- MedlinePlus: Surgical Wound Care
- British Medical Journal: Wound Dressings
- Community Eye Health Journal: Techniques for aseptic dressing and procedures
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: How Wounds Heal
- Journal of Athletic Training: Wound Cleansing: Water or Saline?
- 3M Wound Resource Center. http://solutions.3m.co.uk/wps/portal/3M/en_GB/skin-care/wound-resource-centre/
- Mccaughan D, Sheard L, Cullum N, Dumville J, Chetter I. Patients' perceptions and experiences of living with a surgical wound healing by secondary intention: A qualitative study. Int J Nurs Stud. 2018;77:29-38. doi:10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2017.09.015
- Krafts KP. Tissue repair: The hidden drama. Organogenesis. 2010;6(4):225-33. doi:10.4161/org.6.4.12555
- Chetter IC, Oswald AV, Fletcher M, Dumville JC, Cullum NA. A survey of patients with surgical wounds healing by secondary intention; an assessment of prevalence, aetiology, duration and management. J Tissue Viability. 2017;26(2):103-107. doi:10.1016/j.jtv.2016.12.004
- Singh PK, Saxena N, Poddar D, et al. Comparative Study Of Wound Healing In Primary Versus Delayed Primary Closure In Contaminated Abdominal Surgery. Hellenic J Surg. 2016;88:314–320. doi:10.1007/s13126-016-0340-8
- Surgical Patient Education Program: Prepare for the Best Recovery. American College of Surgeons. 2018.
- Rushbrook JL, White G, Kidger L, Marsh P, Taggart TF. The antibacterial effect of 2-octyl cyanoacrylate (Dermabond®) skin adhesive. J Infect Prev. 2014;15(6):236-239. doi:10.1177/1757177414551562
- Lazar HL, Mccann J, Fitzgerald CA, Cabral HJ. Adhesive strips versus subcuticular suture for mediansternotomy wound closure. J Card Surg. 2011;26(4):344-7. doi:10.1111/j.1540-8191.2011.01257.x
- 3M Wound Resource Center.
Sarah Pflugradt holds a Master of Science in food science and human nutrition from Colorado State University. Pflugradt is a freelance writer and registered dietitian with experience in clinical nutrition and outpatient counseling for diabetes management and weight loss.