Bed sores (a.k.a. pressure ulcers) are a fact of life. When too much pressure is applied to one area of the body, blood flow is cut off, and the tissue that’s deprived of oxygen begins to die. It’s frustratingly simple, and can happen quite quickly if preventative measures aren’t taken.
They’re not fun, they’re not glamorous, and they’re not something most of us want to see, let alone deal with. There’s a lot to know about bed sores, so we’ve gathered what we thought was most helpful and put together a quick list of the 5 best ways you can start to treat (and avoid!) pressure ulcers, today.
- REDUCE PRESSURE BY FREQUENT REPOSITIONING
Pressure ulcers are caused by, well, pressure! That means that the single best thing you can do to help prevent pressure ulcers is reduce pressure by frequent repositioning.
For maximum efficacy at preventing pressure ulcers, positions should be switched consistently every 1-2 hours. How you do it is up to you – it’s best to go through three sides – left, back, and right, and reverse it upon completion of one cycle – and combine this with some light bed elevation adjustments.
*However, don’t adjust your bed beyond 45 degrees – this increases pressure on the tailbone, a high-risk pressure-ulcer area.
Options to help you or your loved one reduce pressure include bedside rails for readjustment, and alternating pressure mattresses, which reduce pressure by inflating and deflating many individual air bladders.
- MAINTAIN SKIN HEALTH WITH A GOOD DIET
A healthy, balanced diet should not be overlooked in bedsore prevention measures. Any food that helps keep your skin healthy is a great choice, so diets high in vitamins C, E, and A are very popular, as well as foods with plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and other fish with plenty of protein and healthy fats.
If you have trouble maintaining this diet due to lack of appetite or unavailability, multivitamins can help you maintain your skin and tissue health without much trouble.
Also, it’s very important to maintain weight in anyone who is bedridden. Excess weight will cause more pressure on high-risk areas, while losing too much weight will reduce the protection that your fatty tissues and general body mass provides to your bone, tendons, and deeper tissues.
In general, anyone bedridden should seek to maintain their body weight. Leave losing (or gaining) weight for the inevitable convalescence – what’s important now is that the risks of tissue damage are minimized.
- KEEP IT CLEAN
This goes for bed sheets, clothing – anything that comes in contact with someone who is bedridden. Dirty clothing or sheets can increase the likelihood of sores progressing, and within sores that have broken the skin, poses an infection risk, as well as a friction risk – dirty clothing in contact with an open sore can pull away and take flesh with it, increasing the risk of the pressure ulcer developing further.
*So make sure that all clothing is a 100% cotton material that is breathable, and that bedsheets are clean, breathable, and changed often.
- MANAGE INCONTINENCE
Yeah. It’s not a pleasant subject, but it goes hand in hand with cleanliness, and in any injury or illness severe enough to require long-term bedrest, it’s a concern. Incontinence, poorly managed, provides one of the most common vectors for bed sores to get infected – urine and feces are breeding grounds for dangerous, highly infectious bacteria –- and so it is very important that the risks of incontinence be managed efficiently.
Diapers and bed incontinence pads are good starting points – by localizing the material and making it easy to clean, you can be sure that once you’ve cleaned up, the area is safe. Lotions and moisturizers can also be a good idea to protect the skin.
Serious cases may require catheters or rectal tubes. We recommend medical consultation to determine this.
- PREVENT FURTHER FRICTION INJURY
Bed sores, even at Stage 1 when they haven’t broken the skin, are areas of tissue that are very weak. First, make sure that the areas where sores are present are clean and dry – a simple antibacterial rinse, dry, and lotion is the best way to treat a Stage I pressure ulcer. Make sure that the skin around it is healthy, and that it dries adequately.
Further injury to these weakened areas can happen easily, even during normal repositioning movements, and for that reason it’s very important that you prevent friction which can cause shearing of these wounds.
Bed powders are one of the best ways to do this – they reduce friction and help avoid sores or other injuries sticking to sheets. Bed sores sticking to clothing and sheets can cause tearing and friction that deepens the wound, and should be minimized and avoided if at all possible.
It’s also important to make sure that all movements are done deliberately, slowly, and with care and attention to vulnerable spots, especially if there are already extant bed sores.
Get Bed Sores Under Control
These are just some simple ways that you can minimize and avoid the appearance of bed sores either in yourself, or in a loved one who is bedridden.
Pressure ulcers aren’t mysterious, and techniques for their prevention and early-stage treatment are simple and easy to implement, and following these simple techniques is the best way to ensure that the ulcers resolve themselves without progressing to a more serious stage.