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The proper technique of bandaging wounds, scrapes and other minor injuries is very important to keep the area safe from infection. Minor cuts or wounds, open cuts, scrapes, sprains and even jammed fingers require the right kind of attention if they are to heal correctly. These techniques will help even the novice learn the proper way to clean and bandage wounds.
To begin you will need to make sure your first aid cabinet is stocked with adhesive bandages in various sizes and shapes, rolls of gauze in 1 and 2 inch widths, gauze pads, 1\2 inch surgical adhesive tape, and several widths of elastic wrapping bandages. It is also wise to consider adding flexible fabric bandages and butterfly bandages. With this assortment you should be equipped to bandage minor wounds and to provide protection in more serious situations until medical help can be found.
The two main reasons for bandaging minor wounds is to close a cut so the bleeding will stop and the edges will heal neatly and to keep a wound clean and free of infection. Be sure that before you bandage any cut, scrape or puncture, that you stop the bleeding by applying pressure with a pad of clean gauze and clean the wound. Even though the wound may seem small, avoiding infection and promoting healing through a thorough cleaning is necessary. Begin by washing your hands and then fill a bowl with warm water and add a small amount of disinfecting soap.
To wash the wound use a sterile gauze pad or clean wash cloth. First wash the skin around the wound working outward from the wound. The actual wound should be flushed several times with the sudsy water. You can swish a cut hand or foot in the water. For scrapes you will need to continue flushing until all the dirt and grit have been removed. If the dirt is deeply embedded, continue with the rinsing for about 20 minutes and then remove any remaining debris, splinters or grit with tweezers. Be sure you sterilize the tweezers by boiling them in water or cleansing the tip with alcohol. Do not probe or squeeze the wound. Lift out only what you can easily detect. Squeezing and probing a wound can cause the spread of infection.
When bandaging a cut that is bleeding only slightly or has stopped bleeding, always use an adhesive bandage. Be sure the bandage is the right size and shape to fit the wounds and cover the entire wound with gauze before bandaging. This will protect the wound from being reopened or the scab from being torn away when you are replacing the bandage. An adhesive bandage is made of a stretchy fabric that makes it more comfortable in areas such as the elbow, toes or fingers. Clean and dry the wound area then wrap the bandage around the wound area, making sure you pull it fairly tight to close the blood vessels. If the wound is still bleeding when you bandage it, wait one hour to allow the blood to clot and then remove the original bandage and replace it with one that is more loosely applied to allow for better circulation.
Open cuts should be bandaged with butterfly bandages to draw the two sides of the cut together. Butterfly bandages should be used on cuts up to one inch long. This will allow the wound to heal with the least amount of scar tissue. When you apply a butterfly bandage, attach one side first then pull gently as you apply the second side making sure the sides of the cut line up and meet. Be sure when applying this type of bandage that the pressure is sufficient to close the cut but not so strong that the ends of the cut curl inward. In a emergency you can make your own butterfly bandage by cutting equal center cuts from a small adhesive bandage. If the cut is over one inch long, on the lip, through an eyebrow, on the nose or is a deep cut across a finger joint, it should be seen by a doctor. Larger cuts on the face can be disfiguring if not properly closed and deep cuts in a finger joint could have severed blood vessels or tendons.
When bandaging a scrape remember that it will only need to be covered for a day or two. Scabs are nature's natural bandage and seal the wound while allowing air to reach it, so when a scab has formed the bandage should be removed. If the scrape is on the knee or elbow it is better to bandage it with gauze held in place by two strips of tape so the joint can move freely without creating stress to the wounded area. Since gauze tends to stick to an oozing wound, be sure you soak it for a few minutes in clean water prior to removing it. When the gauze will pull away from the wound easily, gently pat the wound dry.
When bandaging minor joint injuries such as sprains, twist or jammed fingers you should always use adhesive bandages. If the injury is excessively painful always check with a doctor to be sure you are not dealing with a broken bone. When you are sure that the injury isn't serious, you can wrap the injury with gauze or an elastic bandage to support the joint. Be sure you inform the person you are bandaging that they should not move the injured joint. If the injury is a jammed finger, you will need to support the joint to keep it from being bent. This can be done with a tongue depressor held in place with gauze strips that are wrapped crisscross around the finger, across the hand and around the wrist. Be sure to secure the gauze at the wrist with a knot. Head wounds of any type should be bandaged by a doctor. To insure safety from infection with a head wound, a complex form of bandaging is required. Any time you have bandaged a wound you will want to check it within a day or so. If the wounded person notices any excess pain or there is swelling, redness or red streaks moving away from the wound a serious infection may be present. In the case of a deep cut or puncture, this could indicate the presence of a foreign body that needs to be removed. As with any deep wound, there is always a danger of tetanus infection and in any of these cases, a doctor should be seen immediately.