Emergency wound care: Open wounds

When an individual sustained an open wound, the main objective is to control the bleeding. It is important that you are prepared to handle this type of injury since this can occur while playing certain sports or while in the workplace.

Cleansing an open wound

Once the bleeding is controlled, the open wound should be cleansed using mild soap and water. Liquid soaps are preferred and there is no need to use any fancy antibacterial soaps. Just make sure that you will rinse off the entire depth of the cut and rinse the soap from the surface thoroughly.

Remember that water sometimes has the tendency to sting. Using saline solution can be easier on the skin.

Take note that keeping the wound clean is vital as cleaning it initially. If the wound appears dirty or contaminated after it was cleaned and dressed, remove the dressing and clean it again. Keeping the wound clean is the best way to prevent infection. When cleaning an open wound, it can sometimes cause bleeding to return. Take note that the bleeding is usually minor and can be easily stopped with direct pressure using a sterile dressing.


Once the bleeding is controlled, the open wound should be cleansed using mild soap and water.

How to dress an open wound

Do not dress an open wound until it has been properly cleansed. In case the wound cannot be thoroughly cleaned, leave it open and seek medical attention.

When the open wound is clean and the bleeding is controlled, apply an antiseptic ointment. Cover the wound lightly using an adhesive dressing. In case body hair gets in the way, you can wrap the extremity loosely using wide roller gauze. Make sure that the dressing is changed every 12 hours.

For incisions and lacerations, pull the edges of the wound together and utilize butterfly enclosure to secure them. Apply an antiseptic ointment over the butterfly enclosure and wrap with a bandage.

If the wound continues to bleed at any point, you have to control the bleeding again. If the bleeding persists, it is best to seek medical care. If the individual appears pale, weak or dizzy, call for emergency assistance and treat for shock.

When stitches are needed

In case stitches are required, you have to keep the open wound closed using butterfly enclosures until the individual can be taken to the emergency department. Always keep the wound closed and clean.

Possible complications of open wounds

Remember that infection is the usual complication of an open wound. If the individual experiences the following symptoms after sustaining an open wound, a doctor should be consulted.

  • Fever
  • Tenderness around the wound site
  • Swelling and numbness around the wound
  • Red-colored streak around the wound

What is tetanus?

Tetanus is described as a serious infection that can cause jaw spasms or commonly known as lockjaw and even death. This infection can be prevented with a tetanus shot. If the individual has not received at least three tetanus vaccinations within 10 years, it is time to get a tetanus shot.


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