How to Use Hydrocolloid Dressing


Hydrocolloid dressings are bandages or wound covers that contain a gel-forming agent, like gelatin. The gel agents are usually combined with a polyurethane foam or film to create a waterproof, bacteria-proof and oxygen-proof barrier. Hydrocolloid dressings are a popular wound dressing in hospitals and doctors' offices because the dressings adhere to wet and dry wounds. Popular brands of hydrocolloid dressings include RepliCare, Tegasorb and Duoderm. Hydrocolloid dressings come in sheets, gels or powders, although a hydrocolloid sheet needs to be placed on top of a gel or powder.

Things You'll Need

  • Hydrocolloid gel Hydrocolloid powder Hydrocolloid sheet
  • Clean the wound. The wound should be cleaned with a gentle spray of warm water and rubbing alcohol or antibacterial soap, if recommended by a doctor or nurse.

  • Place your hand or a warm compress on the wound. Hydrocolloid dressings adhere best at room temperature, so the wound should be as close to room temperature as possible without getting bacteria inside the wound.

  • Apply the gel or powder, if necessary. If desired, a hydrocolloid gel or powder can be placed on top of the hydrocolloid sheet to allow a stronger barrier between the sheet and the wound. Gels and powders are especially helpful as wound fillers, if the wound is hollow or dips under skin level. A small amount of hydrocolloid gel can be squeezed from the tube and applied directly to the wound, where the powder needs to be mixed with water before applying to the wound. Apply several drops of water and mix with a sterile tool until the mixture becomes a toothpaste-like consistency.

  • Apply the hydrocolloid sheet over the gel or powder, if used. Hydrocolloid sheets can be cut to adhere to specific wound areas such as heels or fingers, or the sheet can be left as-is for larger wounds, such as on arms or legs. Remove the dressing from the sterile paper surrounding it and slowly, wearing sterile gloves, hold each side of the sheet. The sheet will not stick to gloves or other cool surfaces. Avoid touching the hydrocolloid sheet with your bare hands or other skin while applying to allow it to stick. The dressing will stick without water and as your body temperature rises, the sheet will adhere to the afflicted area.

  • Change the dressing every three to five days. You can tell the dressing needs to be changed when the hydrocolloid sheet begins to peel up around the sides of the wound, a barrier of dirt forms around the bandage, or blood can be seen peeking through the hydrocolloid sheet. Wash the wound again before applying a new hydrocolloid dressing.

Tips & Warnings

  • Hydrocolloid dressings can be purchased at your local drugstore or medical supply store.
  • If you have a serious injury that does not stop bleeding, go to the doctor.

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