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Learning About Packing Your Wound


If you have a deep wound, your doctor may show you how to pack it. This helps keep the wound clean. It also helps it heal more evenly, from the inside out.

You may be able to pack your wound yourself. Or you may need someone to help you reach it. It's important to wash your hands and keep the area clean when you pack the wound.

Ask your doctor how often to change the packing and what supplies to use.

How to pack your wound

How to get ready to pack your wound

Supplies needed to pack a wound: Gauze, clean bowl, gloves, wetting solution, tape, dressing, cotton swabs.
slide 1 of 4
slide 1 of 4, How to get ready to pack your wound,
  1. Using a microbacterial wipe, wipe the table or sink where you will work. Allow it to dry.
  2. Wash your hands with hand sanitizer, working it well into hands until it is dry. If there is no hand sanitizer, use soap and water and wash for 30 seconds (minimum).
  3. Cover your work area with a clean towel.
  4. Put a clean bowl on the towel.
  5. Lay out the rest of your supplies.

How to prepare the packing material

Wetting the packing gauze.
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slide 2 of 4, How to prepare the packing material,
  1. Pour some wetting solution into the bowl. Use enough to cover your packing material.
  2. Cut off some of the packing material. Use the amount your doctor suggests. Place it in the wetting solution.
  3. Cut a few pieces of tape, and have them ready.
  4. Remove the old bandage and packing. Throw them away in a small plastic bag. If you cannot find the packing, contact your doctor right away.
  5. Wash your hands again with soap and water.

How to pack your wound

Using fingers and cotton swab to pack gauze into the wound
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slide 3 of 4, How to pack your wound,
  1. Use clean hands.
  2. Take packing material from the bowl. Gently squeeze it out. It should be wet, but not dripping wet.
  3. Fill the wound with packing material. Don't pack it too tightly. Use your fingers or a cotton swab to press the material into smaller areas of the wound. Always use one continuous piece of packing. For deep wounds, tape the end of the packing material to the outside of the wound.
  4. Be gentle. Let your doctor know if it hurts too much.

How to place the outer dressing

Taping the outer dressing on a well-packed wound
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slide 4 of 4, How to place the outer dressing,
  1. Open the package for the outer dressing. This dressing is used to cover the damp packing material.
  2. Keep the outer dressing dry and clean.
  3. Place the outer dressing over the packing and the wound area. Tape it down securely. If the cover dressing is not waterproof, cover it with plastic and tape.
  4. Wash your hands one more time.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have symptoms of a new infection or of an infection that's getting worse, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area, or red streaks getting worse.
    • Pus draining from the area or more pus than the bandage can absorb.
    • A fever or chills.
  • You have increased bleeding.
  • The packing is not present when you go to remove it.
  • The packing is sticking.
  • Your wound is not getting better as expected.
  • Your wound is changing colour or has a worse odour.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

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