Exposure to open air can actually be detrimental to healing, as open wounds heal best when they maintain moisture in the wound bed. The moisture gives the beneficial bacteria a chance to thrive, thus preventing infections and helping the cellular skin healing begin. Wound dressings are essential for proper moisture balance and for protection from all the contaminants that the air can contain. The doctor will place the initial wound dressing and will give patients instructions about how to best do wound dressing changes at home if necessary.
While the wound should not be soaked underwater for extended periods, exposure to some water is usually not detrimental. The doctor may recommend that patients use some type of protective plastic during showers to minimize the amount of water that gets to the open wound.
The doctor will advise patients about this on a personalized basis, depending on the specific wound. It is very important to always make wound dressing changes promptly and to make the change exactly as the doctor instructs. Use caution when making wound dressing changes. Gauze may stick to the wound, so using a small amount of water if it is necessary to remove the gauze without pain.
Open wounds are normally cleansed with saline or a special prescription wound cleaning solution.
The only lotions or topical ointments that should be used on an open wound are those that are specifically prescribed by the doctor. The skin around the wound (but not inside the wound) can be moisturized with an emollient-rich ointment or lotion recommended by the doctor. This can help promote healing and keep moisture intact.