Returning home after your procedure, you have a lot to think about. One of the most important things is ensuring your wound doesn't become infected. If you have stitches, caring for your wound will be slightly different than one that doesn't have stitches. Nevertheless, both types require some of the same basic care to ensure that you heal properly.

The Size of Your Wound Makes a Difference in Wound Care

If you have a long incision, chances are you had an open procedure, which is less common these days unless medically recommended by your doctor. Wounds from open procedures are more prone to infection, so you must be more diligent about keeping the area clean. They are also subject to wound bleeds if you don't follow directions from your medical provider. When in doubt, consult your doctor about using an antibiotic ointment or other additional precautions. Sometimes patients, especially women, elect to have skin removal procedures after undergoing bariatric surgery to remove excess skin that hands on the arms, legs, and stomach.

Typical Supplies Needed for Wound Care

Assemble supplies needed before your skin procedure and keep them in your bathroom area, where you will clean your wound. Among the items required are:

  • Cotton swabs
  • Non-stick gauze pads
  • Adhesive bandages
  • Paper tape
  • Clean, dry washcloth
  • Clean towel
  • Solutions and ointments per doctor's recommendation

Consult your doctor about the exact items required.

Caring for a Wound With Sutures

Leave the bandage over your wound for the amount of time recommended by your doctor, ensuring that it stays clean and dry. If post-operative instructions indicate you can ice your wound, do so for the first 24 to 48 hours after the procedure to help reduce bleeding, pain, and swelling. You can change the bandage after the time specified by your health care professional, usually, they recommend to leave as is for the first 48 hours unless the dressings get wet. If you have Steri-Strips over the wound, leave them in place as they will slowly fall off on their own. Don't remove the Steri-Strips if your post-op instructions say you should leave them on until your follow-up visit. Dried blood on the Steri-Strips is common, so don't worry.

Keeping Your Wound Clean

Clean your wound daily until your follow-up appointment. Before cleaning, wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based sanitizer. Clean the wound with any solutions recommended by the provider, or use mild soapy water. If your medical provider wants you to put ointment on after cleaning, do so with a cotton swab. Cover the wound with a gauze pad and paper tape or an adhesive bandage. Wash your hands again after you have finished, and clean your wound regularly until it heals.

Showering and Bathing

Your doctor may recommend avoiding showers for a specific time after the procedure and may ask you to keep the Steri-Strips dry. If not, you can let shower water and soap run gently over the wound. Gently pat the wound dry with clean gauze or a washcloth. Avoid using fancy skin cleansers, taking a bath, going in a hot tub, or going swimming until the wound heals completely, usually not before 2 weeks from the surgery (depending on the size of the incisions). Soaking your wound may cause it to open and start bleeding or get infected.

Suture Removal

If you have non-dissolvable sutures, your doctor will remove them at a follow-up visit. Dissolvable sutures can take up to two months to dissolve. Continue to check them until they do. Call your doctor if the incisions become inflamed or irritated.

How Long Do I Need to Keep My Wound Covered?

Most skin wounds don't need a big bandage after a few days, but a light covering after skin lesion removal may aid the healing process. Keeping the area covered is especially important if it reopens and begins to bleed.

Bleeding and Bruising After Your Skin Procedure

Some people experience swelling and bruising, but those signs usually disappear after a few days. If bleeding does occur, apply direct pressure to the wound until the bleeding stops. If the bleeding doesn't stop, call your doctor. For wounds on the arm or leg, apply pressure directly to the site and elevate the limb above chest level.

Activities to Avoid

Post-procedure instruction may include not doing strenuous exercise, running, or heavy lifting for a specified time. Some patients may not have any restrictions, but if you do, make sure you know when you can restart exercise activities. Also avoid exposing yourself to the sun or dirt during the first weeks after the procedure, especially if your wounds are exposed (extremities, neck, scalp, etc.).

When Should You Call Your Doctor?

Proper care of your skin wound also means being vigilant for any potential problems. Infection is the most common (but unfrequent) complication, which is why taking care of your wound after surgery is so important. Call your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • Fever of 100.4° F/38° C
  • Chills
  • Increased redness or swelling that includes the surrounding skin
  • Increasing pain or discomfort
  • Skin that feels warm or hot
  • Bright yellow or green drainage
  • Bleeding that won't stop after 30 minutes
  • Foul odor coming from the wound
  • The incision breaks open
  • Blistering
  • Drainage that leaks through your bandage
  • Pain that worsens after taking pain medicine

How Long Does Recovery Take?

Healing time varies according to the type of surgery you had. In most cases, your wound will heal in about two weeks, sometimes less, depending on how your body reacts to the procedure. Experiencing minor pain for a day or two after your treatment is normal. In most cases, taking over-the-counter pain medications will relieve discomfort. However, you should avoid aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen, as these medications may make it harder for your blood to clot and increase bleeding, unless your surgeon indicates them.

When outside in the sun, cover your healing scar with tape or use sunscreen for the first six months after surgery. Healing scars will darken and become more noticeable when sunburned.

Remember that follow-up care is essential to your treatment and safety. Always take care of your wound as directed and call your doctor when you experience unexplained redness and other sudden problems.

Author's BIO: Lori Wade is a journalist from Louisville. She is a content writer who has experience in small editions. Lori is currently engaged in news and conceptual articles on the health and beauty industry. You can find her on LinkedIn. Hope you appreciate Lori’s useful insights!