Wound Care After Packing Removal or Replacement
Packing is a special type of dressing placed inside a wound to help it heal. Once the packing is removed, you need to care for your wound. Good wound care helps prevent infection. Be sure to keep all follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider. Follow these instructions to take care of the wound once you're at home.
Your healthcare provider may prescribe medicines for pain. Or he or she may suggest an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Talk with your healthcare provider before taking any OTC medicines if you have chronic liver or kidney disease, a stomach ulcer, or gastrointestinal bleeding. In certain cases, you may also need to take antibiotics to help prevent infection. If so, take them exactly as directed for as long as directed. Don't stop taking your antibiotics until they are all gone, even if you feel better.
Here are some general care guidelines for your wound:
- Follow your healthcare provider's instructions on how to care for your wound. Always wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after tending to your wound.
- If a bandage was put on, remove and change it once a day or as directed. If the bandage gets wet or dirty, replace it as soon as possible with a new bandage. Use a clean cloth to gently pat the wound dry.
- If your packing was replaced, a small piece of gauze may hang from the wound. It allows fluid to continue draining from the wound. You may need to use an ointment or cream to keep the packing from sticking to the bandage.
- Don't bathe in a tub or soak your wound until your healthcare provider says it's OK. Take showers or sponge baths instead. Avoid swimming.
- Don't scratch, rub, scrub, or pick your wound.
- Check your wound daily for the signs of infection listed below.
If your wound was closed, it was likely with one of four types of closures. These include stitches (sutures), strips of surgical tape, skin glue, and staples. Your healthcare provider will decide on the best closure based on the size and location of your wound. Each type of closure needs specific care.
- Sutures. You may want to clean the wound daily after the first 2 to 3 days. To do this, remove the bandage and gently wash the area with soap and warm water. After cleaning, apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment if recommended. Then put on a new bandage. Sutures on the outside of the skin usually need to be removed by your healthcare provider.
- Surgical tape. Keep the area dry. If it gets wet, blot it dry with a towel. Surgical tape closures usually fall off within 7 to 10 days. If they have not fallen off after 10 days, you can remove them yourself. To remove the tape, use mineral oil or petroleum jelly on a cotton ball to gently rub the adhesive.
- Skin glue. You may shower or bathe as usual. But do not use soaps, lotions, or ointments on the wound area. Do not scrub the wound. After bathing, pat the wound dry with a soft towel. Do not apply liquids like peroxide, ointments, or creams to the wound while the strips or film is in place. Don't scratch, rub, or pick at the strips or film. Don't put tape directly over the strips or film. Skin adhesive film will fall off naturally in 5 to 10 days. If it does not peel off in 10 days, gently rub petroleum jelly or an ointment onto the film.
- Staples. Take showers or sponge baths. Don't take tub baths. Don't use lotions on the wound area. The area may be cleaned with soap and water 2 to 3 days after the wound was stapled. Don't scrub the wound. Pat it dry with a clean soft cloth or towel. You can use antibiotic ointment if your healthcare provider tells you to. Staples will need to be removed in 10 to 14 days.
Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as directed. If your packing was replaced, you may need another visit within 1 to 3 days to remove or replace it. If you have sutures or staples, return for their removal as directed.
When to seek medical advice
Call your health care provider right away if you have signs of infection:
- Fever of 1 degree or more above your normal temperature, or as directed by your healthcare provider
- Increasing pain in the wound or pain that doesn't get better even with pain medicine
- Increasing redness or swelling
- Pus or bad-smelling drainage from the wound
Also call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:
- Your wound bleeds more than a small amount or won't stop bleeding.
- The edges of your wound come apart.
- You have numbness or weakness in the wound area that doesn't go away.