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How to Care For a Surgical Incision

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Updated April 11, 2014

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Cleaning Your Surgical Incision

Hand Washing- Good hand washing technique, using warm water and soap, should take no less than 30 seconds. A quick wash under the water is not adequate to protect your wound from infection. Hand washing should be done before touching your incision, before changing the dressing on your incision if you have one, after using the restroom and before showering.

Soap-A gentle antibacterial soap is ideal for someone healing from surgery to help prevent infection. Liquid soap may be easier to use, as it can be easily applied without a washcloth. Be sure to rinse your incision well to make sure no soap residue remains after showering.

Showering-Take care not to scrub your incision when you are in the shower. Applying a small amount of soap and rinsing it well should be adequate. Take care not to scrub the incision, which may remove scabs, slow healing and irritate the incision. While it is safe to take a regular shower, it is important not to allow the incision to be wet so long that it puckers (how your fingers do after a bath or a swim) and softens.

If your wound was closed with steri-strips or surgical glue do not scrub or use a washcloth on it. They may appear dirty, which is normal, but they should be allowed to remain in place until they fall off on their own. Scrubbing can cause them to fall off, leaving your incision vulnerable to opening when it should be closing.

When you are finished with your shower, gently pat your incision and allow to air dry completely before covering with a bandage or clothing.

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