Hydrocolloid dressings can be a real time saver when working with patients in an emergency room, clinical setting, hospital or in a home health care situation. This is because hydrocolloid dressings are designed to absorb exudate, keep the wound, ulcer, lesion or open area protected from bacterial infection, and stick to the healthy skin around the wound to make a protective barrier. This is much easier than having to apply layers of gauze and tape along with the correct moisture absorbing material.
The major reason why hydrocolloid dressings are used so commonly in health care situations is because they can be used on any type of wound. This includes the open types of wounds mentioned above as well as dry wounds that are not producing any discharge or liquids. When there is no liquid present the gelatin, usually in combination with a polyurethane foam and sometimes an antibiotic medication, still absorbs some moisture from the skin and creates a barrier. In a wet wound, the direct contact between the liquid produced by the body and the gelatin and foam combination creates a thick gel that serves to keep the area moist and free from bacteria and oxygen. In a moist wound, oxygen contributes to the growth of bacteria and therefore needs to be blocked from the wound until healing begins.
To use hydrocolloid dressings in any type of clinical or home health setting all you need are a few simple pieces of equipment. Start by cleaning the wound, which includes rinsing with saline water and antibacterial soap on the skin around the wound if appropriate. If you are using a self-adhesive pad type of hydrocolloid dressing simply allow the area to dry completely, then remove the protective layer from the adhesive side of the dressing. Position it so the adhesive is only on healthy skin, not on the edge of the wound. Gently press the bandage to the skin and hold until the adhesive warms to body temperature and sticks. This usually occurs within a few seconds.
Some hydrocolloid dressings may actually require you to use a paste or powder on the wound followed by a hydrocolloid sheet. This is a good option for large wounds or wounds that are irregularly shaped and could not be covered by an adhesive dressing. In these situations mix the powder with water as indicated and apply to the wound area, or simply apply the gel directly to the wound after cleaning. You can also apply the gel or water and powder mixture to the hydrocolloid sheet and then press gently to the wound, taking care to ensure that the sheet is warmed to body temperature to form a secure barrier. It is essential to wear gloves throughout the entire procedure of using hydrocolloid dressings to avoid any type of contamination of the wound area. Since the hydrocolloid dressings need to have contact with the skin and wound exudates to both create the gel and the seal, never use any type of antibiotic creams or other types of gel products that may limit the ability of the moisture to move from the wound to the dressing.
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