Should You Leave a Bandage on for a Long Time?
When you have been cut/ wounded, plaster can be extremely useful in covering the wound and stopping the bleeding. However, the question is, how long should you leave the bandage on the wound?
What factors determine how long you should leave a bandage?
Short Answer: Let us try to find out. In the process of determining the answer, let us also answer the questions
- Do cuts heal faster with a bandage?
- Identify the appropriate duration for major and minor injuries
- Know what happens when you leave a dressing on for too long and;
- Learn why the skin turns white after leaving the bandage on for some time.
Do cuts heal faster with a bandage?
Before we answer the question mentioned above, let us first examine why people use bandages in the first place.
Why cover a wound?
Some argue that leaving the wound uncovered and allowing it to breathe can expedite healing.
- When a cut dries without a protective covering, a scab will appear.
- The scab stops the wound from bleeding further by forming a superficial protective layer over it.
- However, the scab can also partially block the formation of new cells to replace the dead and damaged cells in and around the wound.
- The scarring of the wound can also be more pronounced due to the crusty scab.
- While there are times when leaving the wound uncovered is helpful. However, scientific research has shown that the wound/cut heals better when it is kept clean, moist, and well-covered.
- Leaving a wound open is akin to leaving the doors and windows of your house open on a dusty day.
- A scab is a fragile layer of cells. When the wound is uncovered, the scab is at risk of being knocked, scrapped, and rubbed against.
- When the scab breakdowns, the bleeding may recommence and the would-be left exposed to foreign pathogens.
- An uncovered wound is at risk of exposure to dirt and bacteria. If contaminated, even a slight injury can fester into a massive infection, making the damage worse than it once was.
Covering the wound can help accomplish the following;
- Help maintain a slightly moist environment around the wound to accelerate healing. (Therefore, it is best to use plasters in conjunction with antibacterial creams and sprays)
Furthermore, there are several plasters in the market that contain compounds that facilitate healing and keep the wound area moist)
- Prevent contamination by bacteria, dirt, and other foreign agents by acting as a physical barrier to their entry into the body.
- Protects the interruptions to the healing process by protecting the scab from knocks, rubs, and scrapes.
- It helps ease the patient's pain, as uncovered wounds are more likely to be painful.
Therefore, scientific data suggests that wounds tend to heal faster when covered with a bandage.
The appropriate duration of major/minor cuts
The appropriate duration of major/minor cuts
The more extensive and profound the wound, the more time the bandage should be left. Furthermore, the type of bandage used can also influence the healing duration.
A simple Band-Aid would be sufficient to cover the wound in terms of minor scrapes and cuts. Since the injuries are minor, a bandage should only be placed for around 24-48 hours.
Due to the simplicity of the injuries, sometimes people do not even use Band-Aids to cover the damages and allow the wound to breathe in the air. However, as mentioned above, there are certain risks to keeping wounds exposed.
A bandage must be kept on longer for more severe injuries. Around 3 to 5 days is the usual recommendation. However, you should seek a doctor's advice on how long you should leave the bandage on for.
Types of bandages that are used to treat moist injuries;
The severity of the injury influences the type of bandage used, and sometimes the materials in the dressing can increase the speed of the healing process.
- It can dress light to moderate draining wounds, burns, pressure and venous ulcers, and necrotic wounds.
- These bandages distribute absorbent particles within a self-adhesive elastomer.
- The bandage must be left on the wound for 24-48 hours - longer for more severe injuries (consult a doctor to determine the duration)
- Sheets of pre-hydrated hydrophilic polymer
- Ideal for treating necrotic wounds, second and higher-degree burns, infected wounds, and wounds with little to no excess liquid.
- The bandage must be left on the wound for 24-48 hours - longer for more severe injuries.
- The bandages usually are made from coated polyurethane.
- Foams can be left on longer but should be replaced if they have absorbed too much blood and liquids.
- Carboxymethylated cellulose and calcium alginates are used in the creation of Hydro fibers.
- They are used to treat ulcers, surgical wounds, second-degree or higher-degree burns, and wounds that cover a large surface area.
To understand more about the bandages available and the types of injuries they are used for, read A Summary of All types of Available Bandages.
However, bandages cannot last forever. The bandages should be replaced at appropriate intervals to support healing and prevent wound infection.
Throughout an individual's recovery, the bandages applied can get dirty and must be replaced with fresh ones.
However, unlike prescription drugs and other pharmaceuticals, no steadfast rule states when a bandage should be replaced.
Thus, there is yet to be a consistent answer regarding the number of hours or days that should pass before the bandage is replaced.
Accurate wound evaluation plays a crucial role in the doctor's assessment and decision to change the bandage.
Factors that are considered include;
- The absorbing capabilities of the bandage (if the material is highly absorbent, dressings would be changed less frequently)
- The potential contamination of the dressing and the presence of signs of infection.
- The attachment and integrity of the bandage to the wound. (the more attached the bandage is to the injury, the less likely the bandage would be changed)
Note: At any point, if adhesive bandages become unattached, they should be changed immediately.
What happens if you leave the bandage on for too long?
As mentioned above, the area of the wound must be kept moist, well-covered, and clean.
Therefore, when dressings get dirty, they must be promptly replaced.
If the bandage is left on for too long, the healing process will be disrupted, and the propensity for infections dramatically increases.
Improper wound care can result in the skin coming into contact with moisture for too long, ultimately resulting in macerated skin.
Why does the skin turn white after leaving the bandage on?
The skin in and around the wound appearing whiter than usual is a telltale sign of skin maceration.
Skin macerations result from skin coming into contact with moisture for an extended period.
Apart from the whitening of the skin, the skin may feel soft, soggy, and wet to the touch.
Mild macerations can occur when you take a swim, get wet in the rain, and wear bandages. Most of the time, these macerations fade once the skin has a chance to dry out.
However, prolonged moisture exposure can make it more difficult for the skin to return to normal.
The treatments depend on the severity of the macerations.
In mild cases, exposing the affected area to air is sufficient to reverse the maceration.
Specific bandages are used to treat severe skin maceration cases. They are,
- Occlusive dressings are designed to decrease pain and heal time by protecting against moisture and bacteria. They are both airtight and watertight.
- Hydrofiber dressings are sterile pads and bandages that absorb extra moisture. Some Hydro fiber dressings contain iodine, which reduces the risk of further macerations.
Should you 'air out' a cut?
It is an old wives tale that many people still believe. The argument is that the wound should be left uncovered and allowed to breathe, which would enable the injury to heal quickly.
Scientific research has shown that wounds tend to heal faster when they are moist and well-covered.
There are times when leaving the wound open could be the right choice. Situations of tiny cuts that are unlikely to become dirty or come into contact with external elements are examples of such instances.
It is recommended that cuts, irrespective of size, be covered immediately to commence the healing process, prevent further bleeding, and reduce the risk of infection.
Bandages are essential in treating injuries. They are used to expedite the healing process, prevent further bleeding from the wounds, and reduce the risk of infection.
Wounds heal faster when they are moist, clean, and well-covered as opposed to being exposed and dry.
The bandage's type and duration depend on the injury's type and severity.
Consult a medical professional to determine the type of bandage that needs to be used for a particular injury.
Bandages sometimes need to be replaced with fresh ones to reduce the risk of infection.
Skin macerations can result from improper bandaging and prolonged exposure to moisture.