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First Aid - Wound management

Dressing the wound

Allowing a wound to dry out and form a scab delays healing. To prevent this, apply an antibiotic ointment and non-adherent dressing to the wound, then place an absorbent gauze dressing over the non-adherent one. Hold these both in place with a conforming roller bandage. Change the dressing whenever it becomes wet or dirty, and check daily for the following signs of infection:

• increasing pain, redness or swelling
• pus or greenish drainage from the wound
• red streaks on the skin adjacent to or “upstream” from the wound
• fever

If signs of infection develop, remove the tape, open the wound to allow drainage, pack it with moist gauze, and seek medical consultation. Do not be intimidated by wound management. Knowing a few simple principles increases self-reliance and can make the difference between returning to port or continuing your trip with confidence.

Closing the wound

1. Use scissors to clip off hair near the wound so that the strips (tape) will adhere better. Do not shave the skin directly over the wound.

2. Apply a thin layer of tincture of benzoin on the skin along both sides of the wound. Benzoin’s stickiness helps keep the tape in place.

3. After the benzoin dries (about 30 seconds), place the tape on one side of the wound and pull the wound closed; the edges should just touch. Attach the other end of the tape to the skin to keep the wound edges together. Leave about a half-inch between strips.

4. Place pieces of tape crossways (perpendicular to the other strips) over the ends of the existing strips to keep the ends of the tape from curling.

5. Leave the tape in place for a week.

For more on Seamanship & Safety to to www.soundingsonline.com.

This story first appeared in the January 2009 issue.

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