First Aid: Bandaging Injuries and Wounds From Head to Toe

Reviewed on 6/24/2020

Wound Care on Your Face

Cuts and scrapes on the face bleed a lot because they have a rich blood supply, so apply pressure to stop the bleeding.

Facial skin is delicate and the area has a lot of blood vessels, so it may bleed a lot if you cut or scrape it. If you get a facial injury that bleeds, clean the area with soap and water to decrease the risk of infection. Stop the bleeding by placing pressure on the area using sterile gauze. Once bleeding stops, it may be okay to leave the cut or scrape uncovered if it is minor. If it gives you peace of mind, put a small bandage over the area to cover it. If the wound is deep, jagged, or longer than half an inch, you may need stitches. If scar formation is a concern, see a medical caregiver immediately.

Avoid Popping Blisters

Keep blisters bandaged if they are on areas where they might get rubbed, like the bottom of the feet.

If you have a small blister that has not popped, it may be okay to keep it uncovered. It should heal without additional help. But, if the blister is in an area where it might experience friction, like the bottom of your foot, keep it covered. Choose a soft bandage that has some cushioning. Definitely keep broken blisters covered to reduce the risk of infection. If the blister is on your toe, special toe bandages are available that better conform to that area. In addition to covering an area to keep it free from infection, the purpose of blister bandages is to lower the risk of rubbing and rupture.

How to Care for Sprains and Strains

A strained or sprained ankle should be wrapped in bandages.

Strains and sprains are common injuries, especially of the ankle. A sprain is an injured (stretched) or torn ligament. A strain is an injured tendon or muscle. These kinds of injuries are painful and cause swelling. Doctors recommend icing a sprain or a strain (keep skin from freezing), applying a bandage wrap, and elevating the area. If the injury is severe, physical therapy and surgery may be necessary.

Treatment of Minor Burns

Treat minor burns by running them under cool water, using antibiotic ointment, and applying a non stick bandage.

Never try to treat severe burns on your own at home. Always seek medical attention for burns on the hands, feet, face, or genitals. Do not try to treat a burn bigger than 2 inches in diameter yourself. Seek medical attention. Treat small, minor burns by running them under cool water to bring down the temperature of the affected skin. Apply a bit of antibiotic ointment over the area. Do not use grease, butter, or powder on a burn. Apply a special non stick bandage for burns to the area. Secure it with bandaging tape. Do not use an adhesive bandage on a burn as it may cause more damage.

Close Open Wounds and Cuts

Use a butterfly bandage on a cut to help keep the sides of a wound together while it heals.

Sometimes a cut resembles a split in the skin. When this happens, it is important to hold the sides of the wound together to aid healing. Use a butterfly bandage to keep the wound closed as long as the edges can come together. The butterfly bandage must be placed across a cut to keep the sides together. Depending on the length of the wound, you may need multiple butterfly bandages. If the cut is very deep or continues to bleed after applying pressure for at least 15 minutes, seek medical attention. You may need help to stop the bleeding and stitches. Seek medical attention for a cut that is longer than half an inch.

Keep an Eye on Surgical Wounds

Like any wound, surgical wounds may be prone to infection.

Take care of surgical incisions so they are clean and dry. Follow your doctor's instructions for changing the dressing. Every time you remove the dressing, examine the wound for signs of infection. This includes redness and yellowish or greenish discharge. An odor may indicate there is an infection, too.

Tending to Scraped Knees or Elbows

Bandage liquid is a good choice to cover large joints like scraped knees or elbows that move a lot.

Big joints like knees and elbows are hard to cover in part because they have a large range of motion. If you have a cut or a scrape on a knee or elbow, use a large bandage or try a liquid bandage so you can move easily. Special bandages that have wings can work, too. Liquid bandages are appropriate for wounds that experience minor bleeding. They also help protect wounds from water and dirt. You only need to apply a liquid bandage once. They are shower-resistant so you can bathe with the material.

Bandaging Awkward Areas

Bandages come in different shapes so they can accommodate areas like fingers, heels, and knuckles.

Heels, fingers, and knuckles are uniquely shaped and move a lot so they may be a challenge to cover with a bandage. Finger bandages are available as are elastic bandages that give enough to allow for movement. Look for bandages that are shaped like an hourglass or notched so they are easier to place on these tricky areas.

Cover Large Scrapes

Use a hydrocolloid bandage on large scrapes to support healing.

Large scrapes are best kept moist to support healing. You can do this by applying antibiotic ointment or a hydrocolloid bandage, or occlusive bandage. Carefully wash the wound and change the dressing regularly. Monitor for signs of infection like redness, a yellowish or greenish discharge, or odor.

Special Considerations for Hands and Feet

Always cover cuts and scrapes on your hands and feet to protect them from germs and dirt.

Your hands and feet are unique parts of your body because they are exposed to more dirt than other areas. Keep wounds on hands and feet covered. Adhesive bandages also help protect injured areas from socks and shoes that may irritate the wound. Change bandages regularly, especially if they get dirty or wet. If you have a puncture wound or a deep cut on your hands or feet, seek medical assistance as soon possible.

When to See a Doctor

Know when to see the doctor for wound care.

Certain cuts, scrapes, and wounds are serious enough to warrant a trip to the doctor. Seek medical attention if you suffer a puncture wound, deep cut, or other injury that does not stop bleeding after applying pressure for several minutes. Adults who suffer these types of wounds should receive a tetanus shot if they have not had one within the past 5 years. Ask your child's pediatrician if a tetanus shot is necessary if your child suffers a deep cut or wound. Always seeks medical attention if a wound turns reddish or becomes painful or swollen. The presence of discharge and a fever are signs you need medical attention as well.

First Aid: Bandaging Injuries and Wounds From Head to Toe

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