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Wound care 101

Understand the basics to treat your wound successfully

The Goldilocks Principle

Just like Goldilocks, wounds like to be "just right".  It's important to keep the wound in it's preferred state to enhance healing.  If anything is out of harmony, wounds don't respond well. The main "just right" factors are: temperature, moisture and pressure. 



Much like Goldilocks's porridge, the temperature of a wound needs to be "just right".  Not too hot and not too cold.  Wounds prefer to be at body temperature.  Anytime a dressing is removed and the wound is left open to air, it cools down to room temperature.  This will delay healing significantly. It may take up to 4 hours for a wound to reach body temperature again after a dressing is applied after the wound had cooled to room temperature!  The lesson here is to make sure that the wounds are covered with an appropriate dressing. 

If the wound is too hot, this may indicate infection.  If this occurs, contact your wound care or other health care provider.

Image by Jarosław Kwoczała
Image by David von Diemar


Not to wet and not too dry... wounds like to be moist.  Moisture provides wounds with an excellent healing environment, but too much or not enough can significantly delay healing.  If a wound is too wet, the skin around it may turn white and start to break down as well.  This is called maceration.  If too dry, you may end up with unhealthy dry wound tissue, known as eschar.  Keeping your wound covered with an appropriate dressing can help maintain the perfect moisture balance. 


Too much pressure on a wound can break down delicate new tissue and halt healing.  This often occurs with people who have compromised mobility and may not be able to feel pressure or move positions frequently.  This is how pressure ulcers (or "bed sores") can form.  Prevent and treat this by off-loading pressure using air mattress or specialized cushions, such as a Roho cushion. 

However, some wounds do benefit from some pressure. If you have swollen legs, a compression garment, sock as a stocking or a velcro wrap can provide an appropriate amount of gentle pressure. This will reduce the swelling and improve healing. Think of this as if you're giving your leg a hug!

Image by Trent Haaland

Some common misunderstandings:

Band-aides or "non-stick pads" are good for my wound.

Unfortunately, these products may actually make a wound worse. They may not regulate moisture levels very well and too much moisture actually can break down the wound or skin around the wound and cause delayed healing. 

There's yellow "pus" in my wound... I must have an infection.

Wounds often develop a yellow film on top. This is not infection, it's called "slough".  Slough is essentially dead wound and skin cells.  A wound may have delayed healing if the slough is allowed to stay on.  A qualified wound care provider can remove this to allow healing to occur.  You may also see thin yellow fluid on or coming out of your wound. This is normal and expected.

The area around my wound is red.... I must have an infection.

Some amount or redness near the wound can actually be a good thing.  Remember when, as a kid, you fell off your bike and scraped your knee? The area around the scrape turned pink or light red.  This is localized inflammation and an important part of healing.  Redness is ok unless it starts to spread, becomes hot and swollen, you experience increased pain, or you develop a fever, chills, or increased feeling of fatigue.  This could indicate an infection, which should be addressed promptly.

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