Alginates are absorbent wound dressing made from seaweed intended for heavily exuding wounds.
There are a multitude of wound care products to choose from, depending on the condition of your wound and the recommendations of your clinician. People are generally familiar with the most common types, such as gauze, tape, sponges and even foam dressing. One of the lesser known types of products for treating wounds is alginate. These dressings are multi-purpose and can be used on a variety of different types of wounds. Learn more about alginates to be informed and ready to develop a wound care plan with your health care provider.
Alginate dressings defined
Alginates, which have been in use for about a half a century, are absorbent dressings that are generally used on heavily exuding wounds. These dressings, which come in flat wafer or rope forms and various sizes, can absorb as much as 20 times their own weight in fluids. Along with reducing excessive pus and pooling fluids, they protect the affected area from harmful bacteria while still maintaining a moist environment for optimal wound healing. Note that a secondary cover dressing must be used with alginates to maintain proper placement.
Alginate products are particularly unique because of one unusual component: seaweed. The acids from seaweed, including calcium salts, gularonic acids and alginic, are processed into the non-woven, biodegradable fibers. These dressings are very user-friendly, since they’re highly manipulable and easy to apply. Alginates rarely cause allergic reactions.
What wounds should alginate dressings be used for?
Alginate wounds can prove to be useful for a wide spectrum of wounds that have heavy drainage, whether that’s blood or pus. They’re most often used on venous, diabetic and cavity wounds as well as pressure ulcers. However, they may actually serve to dehydrate dry wounds, which can be detrimental to the healing process. They should not be used on third degree burns or cuts with bone or tendon showing.
How to apply alginates
These multipurpose wound dressings have easy application thanks to their ability to be bent and molded to conform to the shape of the wound. After you receive your alginates at home, you can cut them to fit the shape and size of your wound. When you’re ready to apply an alginate dressing, follow these simple instructions, unless otherwise directed by a clinician:
- Clean the affected area with normal saline or another isotonic solution
- Dry the skin surrounding the wound
- Apply the alginate dressing directly to the surface of the wound
- Cover the wound with a secondary dressing and secure it in place with tape
Alginate dressings should generally be changed every one to three days, as Wound Care Advisor stated, though the frequency depends on the amount of exudate. When fluids begin to leak through the top of the dressing or around the sides, it’s time for a new one. Removing the alginate is even easier than the application process. Start by removing the secondary dressing and simply remove it away using saline or another solution.