How to prevent a wound infection
Any wound from amputation or other surgery is at risk of becoming infected because the skin opening can allow germs or dirt to enter the bloodstream. A wound infection can cause tenderness or pain, fever, redness, swelling and/or discharge. These infections can lead to further complications or surgery or even death if not treated properly.
If you suspect you are getting an infection, do something. Act quickly, before a small irritation becomes a serious problem.
Prevention is the best wound infection strategy
Here are some ways to prevent a wound infection
Wash your residual limb with mild soap and water, then rinse and pat dry. Do this at least once a day, or more if you sweat a lot or are treating a rash or infection. Ask your pharmacist to recommend a nonperfumed, pH-balanced lotion.
Wash anything that comes into contact with your skin (liners, socks, inner socket, etc.) with mild soap and water, then rinse and dry (check manufacturer’s instructions).
Do not use alcohol-based lotions on your skin, as it dries it out and can cause cracks, which can lead to infections.
Use only enough softening lotion to avoid flaking, peeling dry skin. Ask your pharmacist to recommend a non-perfumed moisturizing lotion. Do not apply moisturizing lotion to the amputated limb immediately before applying prosthesis. The best time to apply lotion is at night before going to bed. It is important to prevent either excessive dryness or excessive humidity of the skin.
Maintain a good prosthetic fit; learn how to adjust your sock ply, if applicable, or go for a prosthetic adjustment if you start to get redness over a pressure area. This will prevent the pressure area from becoming a pressure sore.
Maintain correct alignment of your prosthesis by wearing the correct heel height that your prosthesis was aligned with and by maintaining a good socket fit.
If you have sensitive, fragile, or compromised skin you should be aware that there are products available specifically for your needs such as the Fixomull sensitive fixation bandage range. Not all products are suitable for all skin types so if the wound care products that you are using or have been provided are causing irritation, you should ask your health care provider if there is an alternative that might better suit you.
Eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of water (unless you have liquid intake restrictions) to maintain supple, healthy skin.
If you are a diabetic, monitor and maintain your glucose levels.
If you have decreased sensation in your limb, remove your prosthesis several times per day to check for pressure areas.
Remember that it is normal to have different skin care needs at different ages. Infant skin will have very different care requirements to the skin of elderly patients. Similarly, if you are using wound care products over a long-term period, your needs will be very different to those of someone who needs products for a shorter time frame. Always ask your health care professional for advice and guidance on products that will suit your specific needs if you are unsure of what to choose.
More wound care advice
Looking for more health and well-being tips? Check out our wide range of health tips from leading health professionals by visiting our wound care hub or clicking on our top articles below.
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This article is sponsored by Independence Australia, a social enterprise that provides choices for people living with a disability or other personal need, enabling them to regain and retain their independence within a supportive community.