Its ability to adhere and mold to the wounded intact skin, to give extra moisture to the wound site, and to maintain sufficient flexibility of the wounded site during healing process have made hydrocolloid dressings a frequently-used wound care during these last years. Proper use of hydrocolloids enable the patients with a wounded site, such as abrasions or minor lacerations to do all the daily chores and activities, including showering without disturbing this injury. In order to perform proper wound care, it is important to know when and how often these dressings should be replaced, as this period might give some signals about the entire healing process the patient might need to know.
How long a hydrocolloid dressing can stay on?
Hydrocolloids are designed to adhere to the skin around the wound bed and thus, to absorb excessive fluid discharge out of the wound. This way, the dressing provides extra moisture to the wound bed that will speed up skin tissues regeneration process and the entire healing. To perform this proper healing, though, it is very important to change the dressing in moderation. Excessive required dressing change frequencies may indicate some conditions about the wound site to consider. Normally, how long a hydrocolloid dressing can stay on the intact skin around a wound site depends much on the condition of the wound and thus, its exudate.
- In dry minor wounds, such as superficial scrapes and scratches, a hydrocolloid dressing may stay longer than in those moist ones. If you are applying the dressing onto this kind of wound, in normal cases, you will not have to change it within 5 days after the first application. With minor lacerations and abrasions, this length of time might have performed almost all of the entire healing process, so that it can be replaced with ordinary cotton gauze afterwards.
- In wounds with more exudate, hydrocolloid dressings can still be applied and adhered to the intact skin. Properly-sized and shaped hydrocolloid also mold and thus, accommodate the wound bed well. However, this dressing needs to be replaced within 3 to 5 days after first application. This dressing needs to be replaced when fully saturated with the wound discharge. During this period, it is possible that the dressing as not yet been fully saturated, but having frayed edges. If this happens, lift the edges with pointy scissors and cut off the fraying edges without lifting the entire dressing. You can secure the edges using adhesive bandage and are not required to change the entire dressing because of this.
- If the hydrocolloid is fully saturated and requires to be changed in daily basis, it may be a sign that the dressing is not suitable for the wound site. The wound might ooze too much and thus, produce excessive exudate. This will cause leakage and make it unable for the hydrocolloid dressing to attach and adhere to the wound bed properly. Do not wait too long to change the type of dressing you are using if this happens, as hydrocolloid dressing that is not fully mold to the wound can easily be infested with bacteria and other external dirt, making the wound more prone to infection.
- Hydrocolloid is strongly not recommended for the wounds showing any signs of infection. Thus, if you have just applied the dressing and find some infection signs of the wound bed, immediately remove the dressing to prevent further wound infection and delayed healing. With wounds that ooze very much, hydrocolloid may worsens the condition by adding too much moisture to the already-moist wound bed, so that the signs of infection may occur within 2 to 3 days after the application of the dressing. Some foul-odor discharge may leak, which is an initial sign that the dressing should be removed.
Tips on changing hydrocolloid dressings
- Hydrocolloids and the film around them are commonly elastic, which makes removal a lot easier and less painful. It should not be attached to the wound directly and instead, to the intact skin around the wound. To make removal less painless, pull the dressing off according to the direction of hair growth. This will minimize the risk of having some hair pulled together that makes removal more painful.
- The dressing is commonly adhered to the skin strongly, but since you might still wear it while having a shower, it is possible for the edges of the dressing to be raised, creating some spaces wherein bacteria and dirt may accumulate. If this happens, carefully lift the raised edges and reattach them to the skin afterwards. If needed, secure the edges with adhesive bandages, but make sure you check these bandages regularly, as they may be raised as well, triggering possible bacterial and dirt infestation around the wound bed.