Wet dressings are used for acutely inflamed skin conditions. These rashes have varying degrees of redness, swelling, blistering, oozing, crusting, infection, and itching. The dressings cool and dry the skin. In addition, they cleanse the skin of exudates, crusts, and debris and help to maintain drainage of infected areas. Various medications may be added to the solution, but water is the most important ingredient.
The most common types of wet dressings I use are Domeboro powder packets or tablets (aluminum acetate) and normal saline, which can be mixed up by dissolving one teaspoon of slat in a pint of water. Directions for the Domeboro is to dissolve a packet or tablet in a pint or quart of water.
- The dressing need not be sterile. Gauze, Kerelix, soft linen (such as old sheeting, pillowcases, handkerchiefs, or shirts) are acceptable. If cloth is used, it may be washed and reused.
- Moisten the dressings by immersing them in the solution and gently ring them out. They should be sopping wet, not dripping. The solution should be warm and tepid. Cover with a soft towel or a cloth that will allow evaporation.
- Apply or wrap skin loosely. Multiple layers (6-8) should be applied to prevent rapid drying or cooling.
- The dressings should be removed, remoistened, and reapplied every 10-15 minutes for 1/2 to 2 hours three times a day.
- After the dressing is removed, a lotion or cream may be applied to the skin as directed.
For some skin infections and abscesses (boils) the technique for wet dressings is modified somewhat. Follow steps 1-3, but then cover the warm dressings with plastic or Saran wrap. This helps to localize and heal the infection.