It’s important to take care of your post-surgical wounds.

In 2010, surgeons in the U.S. performed an astounding 51.4 million operations, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Whether it was hip or knee replacements, coronary bypass grafts or hysterectomies, a large chunk of patients contended with post-surgical wounds. Developing the right post-op wound care plan is one way to manage the estimated 158,000 surgical infections that happen each year, per the CDC’s 2011 figures. Here is what you need to know:

Take it easy

No matter how you may feel following your operation, it’s important to ease back into your routine. The American Academy of Family Physicians said to limit any activities that might rip or tear at the incision, and to do so for at least a month following the operation. If you’re not sure whether you can lift those boxes or work out, speak with your doctor before doing such activities.

Maintain cleanliness

When it comes to handling your wound, being clean is the most effective way to prevent infection. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, you should wash your hands for at least 30 seconds each time before touching the wound. To help keep track, try singing “Happy Birthday” or the “Alphabet Song” while you wash. Always make sure that you clean under your nails. Finally, proper drying is just as important, and you’ll want to completely pat your hands dry.

Wash the wound site

Just as you would with your hands, you need to take special care when cleaning the wound itself. According to the National Institutes of Health, you should always use saline solution or soapy water on the wound. Solutions like iodine, alcohol or peroxide can irritate the skin. To prevent painful tearing, dab gently at the wound; it may take several rounds to remove the dried blood or other exudate. If you have to irrigate the wound, be sure to hold the syringe at least six inches from the wound and spray forcefully.

Change the dressings

According to the Saint Louise Regional Hospital, there are two times when you should change your dressing: as directed by a doctor and if the dressing becomes wet or dirty. When removing the old dressing be sure to start with a corner, and remove the tape and bandage slowly. Before placing the new dressing, check for any discharge or odors that indicate complications. Never reuse dressings, as this is unsanitary. More often, you’ll be using a wet-to-dry dressing, and that means you need to ensure the dressing is totally moist if it’s going to stick.

Watch for signs of infection

Regardless of the operation, there are several common signs of surgical wound infection (per Johns Hopkins Medical School):

  • Pus or discharge.
  • Swelling.
  • Redness.
  • Bleeding.
  • Fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or greater.
  • Pain around wound site.

if you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to contact your primary physician right away.

Advanced Tissue is the nation’s leader in specialized wound care supplies, delivering to both homes and long-term care facilities.