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First Aid: Bandaging

Covering a break in the skin helps to control bleeding and protect against infection. Dressings are pads of gauze or cloth that can be placed directly against the wound to absorb blood and other fluids. Cloth bandages cover dressings and hold them in place.

Image of doctor holding gauze pad against patient's forearm

1. Dress the Wound

  • Put on gloves or use other protection to avoid contact with the victim's blood.

  • Clean the wound with mild soap and water.

  • Place a clean dressing over the entire wound. Gauze dressings let in air for faster healing. Nonstick dressings have a special surface that won't cling to the wound.

  • If blood soaks through the dressing, place another dressing over the first one.

Image of doctor wrapping patient arm with bandage

2. Cover the Bandage

  • Wrap roller gauze or cloth strips over the dressing and around the wound several times.

  • Extend the bandage at least an inch beyond both sides of the dressing.

  • Don't wrap the bandage so tight that it interferes with blood flow to healthy tissue.

Image of doctor securing bandage in place

3. Secure the Bandage

  • Tie or tape the bandage in place.

  • Don't secure the bandage so tight that fingers or toes become pale or blue.

Image of doctor checking circulation in patient

4. Check Circulation

  • Check circulation in the area below the bandage after several minutes and again after several hours. The skin may look pale or blue or feel cold. Signs of poor circulation also include numbness and tingling.

  • If circulation is reduced, loosen the bandage immediately. If symptoms continue, seek medical attention.

Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically-affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Trevino, Heather M., BSN, RNC
Date Last Reviewed: 11/30/2014
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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