Occlusive dressings are typically not used for long term care of a wound. However, it is perfect for a variety of first aid applications, since it literally provides a complete barrier around and over the wound. This seal prevents air, water, and contaminants from getting into the wound or on the surrounding tissue. This dressing has traditionally been used with large wounds, particularly to the chest or abdominal area, to provide immediate control of pressure and bleeding. Occlusive dressings are now also used in less serious wound treatment, including minor superficial types of wounds.
New research in wound care shows that minor wounds and lacerations often take a long time to heal because they become infected, tear, and are re-injured with average activities. This is largely because patients fail to properly care for the wound long enough for it to heal and form strong new connective tissue. By using occlusive wound dressing to enclose the wound, there is no risk of infection or contact with pathogens during the healing process and the area is kept secure and more protected. This in turn results in a shorter overall healing time and much less chance of significant or even minimal scarring. Occlusive dressings can often be used in combination with hydrogels, hydrocolloids and films that trap moisture close to the wound while still providing that tight seal required for effective healing.
There are some cautions to take when using occlusive dressings on any type of minor wounds for a long periods of time. Skin maceration can occur, which is damage from excessive moisture to the healthy tissue around the edge of the wound. The skin becomes very soft, and typically is white in color when this occurs. Skin in this condition is highly prone to infection, and any infection in the wound can quickly spread to the healthy tissue, posing more problems and a greater area requiring treatment. This usually occurs with long term exclusive use of occlusive dressings, and is not commonly associated with proper wound care procedures and practices.
With minor skin injuries, occlusive dressing is often used in combination with a topical antibacterial or corticosteroid cream. This allows the cream to be held close to the surface of the wound without being wiped away or drying. In turn, the medicated components of the cream can penetrate the wound surface more effectively, promoting healing on a much quicker basis. There are also steroid impregnated occlusive dressings that are ideal for short term use in difficult to treat locations of the body. Usually these are areas that are challenging to bandage such as fingers, toes and joint areas. Occlusive dressing holds the steroid into the skin, maximizing penetration and healing over a much shorter period of time than with a less potent type of treatment.
Since occlusive dressings, by definition, don't allow draining of the wound area, they need to be used appropriately and based on the specific nature of the wound. Short or prolonged use of occlusive dressings should only be completed under doctor's supervision and in very specific medical situations.
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