Clean, Treat, Protect.
These are the essential steps in caring for or bandaging a wound.
Often, at the first site of blood, our reaction is to cover it up. This is a good thing. This is, in fact, and instinctual action 0 when we are cut or abraded we instinctively cover it with our hand, applying pressure (this is partly because our nerves can only send one type of signal at a time, and applying pressure means a large portion of the nerve endings in the injured are will send "pressure" signals to the brain instead of "pain" signals.)
In first aid treatment, however, you need to remember that the goal is to improve the situation and avoid further harm. For minor wounds, the bleeding is not in-of-itself a major concern. The first concern in treating minor cuts and scrapes is to cleanse the wound, removing any foreign debris or contaminants. This can be as simple as washing with warm soap and water or wiping with an antiseptic, to carefully picking out debris and light scrubbing in the case of severe abrasions (like "road rash" - you definitely don't want all that junk left in a wound.. even the asphalt itself contains preservative properties which can worsen scarring.)
This, of course, pertains primarily to treating a minor cut, scrape, incision, or abrasion - serious wounds, and sever bleeding are major life threatening issues (a victim can actually die faster from sever bleeding than from cardiac arrest!) learn how to Stop the Bleed.
We know you are still yearning to slap on that bandage, but hold on - there's another step first! While covering and protecting the injury is certainly important (don't worry, we're getting there next) it is also very important that you apply an antibiotic and pain relief cream or ointment to provide a proper healing environment and to help prevent infection.
OK Band-Aid lovers... here's your favorite part. Time to cover the wound (these three wound care treatment steps are sometimes referred to as "Clean, Treat & Cover".)
After you have cleaned out any foreign contaminants and applied a salve to assist in healing the wound, it is time to cover it up. We Americans, by and large, have some silly notion that you should allow a wound to "breathe" in order to heal. Don't you believe it.
According to Johnson & Johnson, only slightly more than 29% of us actually apply bandages or dressings to our wounds. It is important to understand that a covered wound heals faster. Covering the affected area with a dressing or an adhesive bandage and keeping it covered until the wound is completely healed protects the injury from dirt and germs that can cause infection.
So should you dress a wound or bandage it? Both. dressings, like gauze pads and sponges, are applied to a wound to cover it and absorb any bleeding, bandages, such as roller gauze or other wraps and tapes are used to hold the dressing in place.
Remember, though, not to remove the first layer of dressings... if a wounds bleeds through the bandaging, or if you feel for some other reason you should "change the dressings", do so, but don't remove the first layer of dressings applied against the skin - if these fall away freely, fin, but often they are adhered to the wound, or incorporated into the healing/scabbing processes so if you pull them away, you are likely to reopen the wound, causing new bleeding and possibly increasing any damage or scarring.
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DID YOU KNOW? Although many think that bandages are used to stop bleeding or infection, they’re actually used to hold a dressing in place. Typical "bandages" as we think of them, (like Band-Aid™ or our plastic/fabric bandages) are really a small bit of dressing attached with a small piece of bandages to put over the top of a separate piece of sterile dressing. This is important to note, because if you simply put a bandage over a wound without dressing, the wound will continue to bleed and runs the risk of becoming infected. Never put a bandage directly over a wound.
NOTE: Puncture Wounds can be deep and a First Aider is unlikely to be able to clean out contaminants well. Do your best, then seek more advanced medical care.