First Aid Procedures: Bandages And Dressings

Information on various types of bandages and dressings and the proper first aid for apply them in an emergency situation.

Is your first-aid kit fully equipped with the proper assortment of bandages and dressing materials should you encounter a medical emergency?

In most cases, the average person may find they are ill prepared and unable to administer the best first-aid possible, because they lack the knowledge of various types of dressing and bandage materials available or the proper use of these important first-aid items.

Let¡¦s take a brief look at the purpose of dressings and bandages and the differences in their use as well as the importance of their proper application.

A dressing is administered to cover an open wound. Since this material comes in direct contact with the wound there are several do¡¦s and don¡¦t to take into consideration when applying a dressing. The purpose of a dressing is to control bleeding, prevent infection, absorb blood and wound drainage and to protect the wound from further injury.

Whenever possible a dressing should be¡K

- Sterile to lessen the likelihood of infection. If a sterile dressing is not available, using a clean cloth, such as a handkerchief, towel or washcloth would be appropriate.

- Larger than the wound to offer full protection.

- The material used should be soft, thick and compressible so pressure can be evenly distributed over the wound.

- Lint free in order to protect the wound from foreign particles.

Adhesive strips or Band-Aids TM, are primarily used for small cuts and abrasions. They are individually wrapped to ensure sterilization and can be used both as a bandage or a dressing.

Gauze pads are a good sterile dressing to be used on small wounds. They come is various sizes and are covered with a protective coating which keep them from sticking to a wound that is secreting fluid or a burn. Each pad comes individually wrapped to remain sterile until opened.

For larger wounds, Trauma dressings are available. They are large, absorbent, sterile and thick. In an emergency, individually wrapped sanitary napkins can also be used to dress a larger wound. Though these products are not sterile they serve well for they are both absorbent and bulky.

When applying a sterile dressing do¡K

- Wash your hands before administering a dressing whenever possible.

- Use a dressing that is larger than the wound, covering the wound completely.

- Hold the dressing by one corner and place the dressing directly over the wound. Never slide the dressing across the wound.

- Cover the dressing with one of the types of bandages described below.

When applying a dressing to a wound do not¡K

- Touch any part of the wound or the dressing that comes in direct contact with the wound.

- Breath, talk or cough of the wound or the dressing.

- Use a fluffy cotton type of material or cotton balls. Cotton contains fibers that can get inside a wound, making it difficult to remove.

- Remove a blood-soaked dressing until the bleeding has completely stopped. Instead simply cover the dressing with a second dressing.

- Pull off a dressing that has adhered to a wound. Rather soak the dressing in warm water in order to remove the dressing without causing further injury.

Bandages are used for a variety of reasons. A bandage can be used to hold a dressing in place over an open wound. It can be used to apply direct pressure over a dressing to assist in controlling bleeding. Bandages can also be used to prevent or reduce swelling and they can provide support for a joint or extremity.

A bandage should be clean, but it does not need to be sterile since it does not come in direct contact with an open wound.

There are four basic types of bandages.

1) Roller bandages come in a variety of lengths and widths to accommodate various parts of the body. You would want to apply a 1-inch width bandage on a finger or toe wound, while a four or six-inch width bandage would be more appropriate to wrap an ankle or knee injury. Some roller bandages are made of self-adhering material, which is slightly elastic and gauzelike to conform to the body. They are easier to apply and can be used for a variety of injuries. Gauze rollers are more rigid as they are made of cotton and contain no elasticity. Also available are elastic roller bandages. This type of roller bandage is not usually applied to a wound dressing. Rather, they are to be used for injuries requiring compression such as a sprain or contusion. In an emergency situation that calls for a roller bandage when none are available, strips of torn cloth, sheet or other like material can be used.

2) Triangular bandages are normally made of cotton and cut in the shape of a triangle. This type of bandage can be applied in two ways. Fully opened this type of bandage can be used as an arm sling. The triangular can also be used as a cravat. A binder placed around a victim¡¦s body to stabilize an injured arm in a sling, or to hold splints in place. It may be applied evenly over a dressing to supply pressure to a wound as well.

3) Adhesive tape is available in various lengths and widths. Adhesive tape is primarily used to secure roller bandages or small dressings in place. Some people are allergic to adhesive. In these instances using paper tape or special hypoallergenic tape would be required.

4) Adhesive strips come in handy for small cuts and abrasions. This item can be used as a combination dressing and bandage.

As you can see, dressings and bandages are very different in purpose. Having the correct items on hand can make a difference in how effective your care to an injured person will be.

I hope the above facts and suggestions lead you to recheck and restock your family first-aid kit, making you better prepared in an emergency situation.

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