Dressing

A dressing is a sterile pad or compress applied to a wound to promote healing and/or prevent further harm. A dressing is designed to be in direct contact with the wound, as distinguished from a bandage, which is most often used to hold a dressing in place. Some organisations classify them as the same thing (for example, the British Pharmacopoeia) and the terms are used interchangeably by some people. Dressings are frequently used in first aid and nursing.

Core purposes of a dressing
A dressing can have a number of purposes, depending on the type, severity and position of the wound, although all purposes are focused towards promoting recovery and preventing further harm from the wound. Key purposes of a dressing are:

  • Stem bleeding – to help to seal the wound to expedite the clotting process;
  • Absorb exudate – to soak up blood, plasma, and other fluids exuded from the wound, containing it/them in one place;
  • Ease pain – to have an actual pain-relieving effect, whereas some others may have a placebo effect;
  • Debride the wound – to remove slough and foreign objects from the wound;
  • Protection from infection – to defend the wound against germs and mechanical damage;
  • Promote healing – to contribute to recovery via granulation and epithelialization; and
  • Reduce psychological stress – to obscure a healing wound from the view of others.