If the person in your care has an open wound, it is very important for caregivers to know the signs and symptoms of wound infection, and when to call your nurse or go to the emergency room.
Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after changing the person’s wound dressings.
Anyone can get a wound infection, but a person is more likely to get an infection if their immune system is not functioning well due to diseases like diabetes or cancer, or if they have had catheters and intravenous (IV) lines, or if they were in hospital for a long period of time. Excess weight and smoking may also affect how well the wound heals.
Caregiver tips for wound care
Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after changing the person’s wound dressings. See our Elizz article on Hand Washing and Infection Control.
Look for the following signs of wound infection each time you change the wound dressings. Call your nurse if the person has:
- Increased, thick, or yellow/green pus or drainage from the wound
- Warmth/heat or redness around the wound that was not there before
- Increasing pain from or around the wound
Call your doctor or go to your nearest emergency room if they have:
- Fever or chills
- Rapid heart beat
- Confusion or difficulty concentrating
Caregiver tips for preventing wound infection
According to the Wound Care Society, a wound heals best in a moist environment and when there is no infection. They also recommend that the wound be covered for proper hygiene and because a clean dressing helps to prevent infections, protecting the area from contaminants and further injury.
If possible, it’s helpful if the person can also learn how to change their own dressing.
- Always wash your hands before and after you change a wound dressing.
- Keep your wound care supplies clean and sealed between dressing changes.
- Tell your nurse or doctor as soon as possible about any bleeding, pus, hardness, swelling, odor, or wound colour change.
Caregivers can also support wound healing by making sure the person in their care is well hydrated, drinking plenty of water and eating a nutritious, balanced diet. See our Elizz article on Nutrition and Wound Healing Foods.
If the person you’re caring for has diabetes, be sure their blood sugar level is well-controlled and that they are taking medication as prescribed.
Activity levels are also a factor in wound healing. As a caregiver, you can make sure that the person is getting enough exercise (walking, for example) and that they limit or break up the amount of time they spend sitting or being inactive.
When to seek help
Here are some other signs to watch out for and to immediately report to your nurse or doctor:
- If you as a caregiver are not able to follow the wound care treatment plan
- If the wound gets any larger or deeper
- If the wound does not begin to show signs of healing
- If the person in your care is not eating a healthy diet
- If the person’s health is getting worse
At Elizz, we provide caregiver support for you and home care services for those who depend on you. Elizz is a Canadian company powered by Saint Elizabeth, a national not-for-profit health care organization that has been caring for Canadians since 1908.
For help in managing a wound or for more information on infection control, speak to your doctor, or contact Elizz to learn more about our home care services and to arrange a visit from a home care nurse. Call us at 1-855-Ask-Eliz (275-3549).