Flowers adorn a winding path outside the library in South Natick/Photo by Douglas Flynn

The skin is the body’s first line of defense against infection. If a wound is uncovered bacteria may invade the body.

If a wound is serious, very deep or large, or shows signs of infection, seek medical help. Signs of infection are colored discharge, tenderness and pain around the site, warmth at the site, foul odor, refusal to heal in a timely manner, and possibly a pink line from the wound moving up or down a limb from the wound site. This is a serious finding and requires immediate medical care.

We do heal more slowly as we age, or if diet is poor, but do seek attention for any wound that does not heal in a timely manner.

NOTE: If your loved one has a wound that is being cared for by a medical professional, follow their instructions on care.

If a dressing becomes wet or dirty change it.

For minor wounds that do not require medical intervention to properly heal, use the following process for applying and changing a dressing:


  • Antibiotic cream (provided the person with the wound is not allergic to it)
  • Saline solution
  • Dressing – open the package and lay the dressing with the area to touch the wound facing up
  • Plastic bag for trash (not paper, so there is no leakage)
  • Tape (use paper tape for skin that is very fragile or has an allergy to tape)
  • Hand Washing Supplies
  • Disposable Gloves


  • Place strips of tape hanging from the side of a table, ready to be used. (HINT: Tip the bottom end of each tape strip over so you have a place to grasp the tape, and it won’t stick to your gloves.)
  • Wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Place antibiotic cream on the dressing in advance, rather on the wound.
  • Put on gloves.
  • If there is a dressing in place carefully remove it. If it is stuck pour saline on the wound to loosen it; do not remove a scab as it provides protection to the wound. Allow it to soak for a little while to loosen.
  • Place old dressing in a bag for garbage. Touch it at the edges, as little as possible.
  • Change your gloves now if they were soiled by the old dressing.
  • Pour saline on a gauze pad, or on a cotton tipped applicator if it is a small or narrow wound.
  • Clean the wound from the cleanest to the dirtiest area, using a circular motion. Change pad or applicator frequently, putting the dirty ones in the impermeable bag.
  • Pat wound with gauze to dry.
  • Apply non-stick dressing.
  • If you want padding, add layers of gauze before taping.
  • If others will be changing the dressing, write the date of the dressing on the tape at the edge.
  • Double bag all garbage.
  • Wash hands.

Contributed by Sara Miller,RN

NOTE: This information is for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical or professional care, and you should not use the information in place of a visit, call consultation or the advice of your physician or other healthcare provider. BayPath is not liable or responsible for the opinion of the author. Reliance on any information provided is solely at your own risk.

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