Discharge Instructions: Caring for Your Wound

Taking proper care of your wound will help it heal. Your healthcare provider or nurse may show you specifically how to clean and dress the wound and how to tell if the wound is healing normally. This sheet will help you remember those guidelines when you are at home.

Getting ready

  • Put pets and children in another room, away from your work area.

  • Wash your hands before touching any of your supplies:

    • Turn on the water.

    • Wet your hands and wrists.

    • Use liquid soap from a pump dispenser. Work up a lather.

    • Scrub your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds.

    • Rinse your hands with your fingers pointing toward the drain.

    • Dry your hands with a clean cloth or paper towel. Use this towel to turn off the faucet.

    • Remember, once you have washed your hands, don’t touch anything other than your supplies. Wash your hands again if you touch anything, like furniture or your clothes.

  • Clean your work area:

    • Clean washable surfaces with soap and water, and dry with a clean cloth or paper towel.

    • Wipe surfaces that are not washable (like fabric or wood) so that they are free of dust. Spread a clean cloth or paper towel over your work surface.

    • Move away from the clean surface, if you need to cough or sneeze.

  • Gather your bandage supplies:

    • Gauze dressing or other bandage material

    • Medical tape

    • Disposable gloves

  • Wash your hands again.

Dressing the wound

  • Remove the old dressing:

    • Put on disposable gloves.

    • Pull gently toward the wound to loosen the tape.

    • One layer at a time, gently remove the dressing.

    • If you have a drain or tube, be careful not to pull on it.

    • Look at the dressing. Make sure that you are seeing a decreasing amount of blood, and that the blood is turning into a clear, amber fluid.

    • If your wound has stitches, look for loose ones.

    • Put the dressing in a plastic bag. Then remove your gloves.

  • Inspect the wound. Look for signs that it isn't healing normally. A wound that isn’t healing properly may be dark in color or have white streaks. Look for signs of infection. These may include drainage that is yellow, yellow-green, or smelly or increased swelling, pain, warmth or redness in the skin around the wound.

  • Dress the wound:

    • Wash your hands again.

    • Put on a new pair of disposable gloves.

    • Clean and dress the wound as you were shown by your healthcare provider or nurse.

    • If you have a drain or tube, be careful not to pull on it.

  • Discard any used materials or trash in a sealed plastic bag before placing in a trash can.


Make a follow-up appointment, or as directed by your healthcare provider.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Shaking chills or fever above 100.4°F ( 38°C)

  • Bleeding that soaks the dressing

  • Stitches that are pulling away from the wound or pulling apart

  • Pink fluid weeping from the wound

  • Increased drainage from the wound or drainage that is yellow, yellow-green, or smelly

  • Increased swelling, pain, or redness in the skin around the wound

  • A change in the color or size of the wound

  • Increased fatigue

  • Loss of appetite

© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. 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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