Creating and Applying Bandages and Dressings – Treatment of Bleeding and Wounds


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There’s a difference between a dressing and a bandage. A dressing is placed directly on the wound, while a bandage holds it in place. You can make an effective dressing out of a piece of clean cloth. Double it over and hold it with a piece of Gorilla Tape. See Figure 4.3.


Figure 4.3. Dressing with Gorilla Tape bandage

The main thing in applying a dressing is to be as clean as possible so as to avoid infection. To that end, wash your hands. If the cloth is sterile, that’s great, but if it’s not, you’re going to have to use it anyway. Find the clean part of it and use it. If time permits, boil it and let it dry before applying. Place the dressing material on the wound. If it’s a large wound, you may need to wrap the dressing around the wound. Maintain even tension to ensure that circulation is not cut off. Then secure the dressing by tying it, using tape, or with whatever improvised item you can find. For the wilderness first-aider, do what works!

As a wound scabs over and begins to heal, it will probably cause the dressing to stick a bit. Not only can this be painful when it’s time to change the dressing, but you need to be careful not to reopen the wound. You can get the dressing off by wiping around the stuck area with a damp cloth. As in all things in this book, be gentle and mindful of your patient’s discomfort.



As far as bandages in the wild go, you’ve got a lot of options. You can use gauze, Gorilla Tape, or tear strips of cloth from a piece of clothing.


You may need to dress and bandage a wound that has an open fracture (the bone is sticking out) or with embedded debris that cannot be immediately removed (such as glass or gravel that is not on the surface). In these cases, you will need to apply a no-pressure bandage so as not to cause the injured person additional pain. Use your bandaging material for this. Twist the bandaging material to create a rope-like effect. Shape this into a circle and place the center of the circle over the area you’re trying to protect. Then gently secure the material in place.


If you have applied a bandage correctly, the bleeding should be stopped (or slowed) and the wound protected. If you’ve applied the bandage too tightly, it can restrict circulation and cause tissue damage. If there is a blue tinge in the nail beds, a feeling of coldness, or an inability to move the hand or foot below the bandaged wound, it is a sign of a too-tight bandage. So is pale skin around the bandage, a tingling feeling or loss of sensation near the bandaged area, or pain around the bandaged area that isn’t because of the wound. If any of these things occur, it’s best to rebandage the wound.


Earlier today, you gashed yourself with a knife while preparing a nice, hot campfire meal. You cleaned and bandaged it, using a good amount of pressure because the wound kept wanting to bleed. Now your hand feels a little cold and it’s tingling. It’s too dark to tell if it has changed color. What should you do?


A cold sensation and tingling are signs you’ve bandaged your cut too tightly. If you could see it better, you’d probably notice your fingernail beds were turning a little blue and your skin had turned paler. Remove the bandage and try again.


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