Types of Wound Dressings

May 03,2019 |

Ever since you were a child, wound care has been an essential part of life. A scraped knee meant antiseptic and a Band-Aid in most homes, but is that the best way to treat all wounds? Chances are that to this day, you’re not treating wounds correctly. Rather than just sticking a Band-Aid on anything and everything, there is a better way—one that will increase healing and decrease risks.

Wound treatment is different in everybody and often depends on a number of factors. Age and skin type are two things that change how you treat a wound and avoid infection. Other factors depend on the type of wound, location, severity, and more.

Avoiding infection is essential, but wound treatment does much more than that. When you take proper care of a wound using the right dressings, healing time is increased and your body stays protected. The type of dressing you should use depends on a number of factors. Some of those include the type of the injury itself, how big it is, where it’s located, and how severe the wound is. In this article, we’ll get a better understanding on the different types of wound dressings available to treat a range of injuries and when you need to use each.

If you have a serious injury, don’t try and dress the wound yourself. Instead, head to an urgent care or your doctor’s office to avoid any complications.

What is a Wound Dressing?

A wound dressing is anything that is used in direct contact with a wound to help it heal and prevent further issues or complications1. Different wound dressings are used based on the type of the wound, but they all aim to help reduce infection. Wound dressings also help with the following1:

  • Stop bleeding and start clotting
  • Absorb excess blood, plasma, or other fluid
  • Wound debridement

Different Types of Wound Dressings

There are tons of different types of wound dressings used in the medical field today. In this article, we’ll discuss the most common ones. They include the following.


This type of wound dressing is the most commonly used dressing and for good reason. It’s versatile and is used to protect open wounds from a number of minor injuries. Whether it’s a scraped knee, an uncomfortable cut, or an injury in a sensitive area. Cloth wound dressings are also commonly used for small patches of broken skin or in delicate areas.

Most often, medical practitioners use cloth dressings as a first layer of protection. In other circumstances, they’re used as a second layer to further secure an area1. Since cloth conforms to your body, it’s a great option for wounds that are awkward or difficult to dress.

You’ve likely used cloth dressings before, as they are the most well known type of dressing used in homes—other than simple Band-Aids. Cloth dressings come in both pre-cut packaged dressings and roll options. They’re available in a variety of shapes and sizes and are easily altered to fit any wound.


Another common type of wound dressings is foam dressings. They’re extremely soft and usually very absorbent, depending on the brand. Foam dressings help to protect the wound while it’s healing and maintains a healthy moisture balance1. This makes foam dressings good for wounds that may exhibit foul smelling odors.

The absorbency of foam dressing helps to promote faster healing times as the dressing efficiently absorbs excess fluids from the wounds surface while still keeping it moist2. The moisture kept inside the wound from foam dressings promotes faster healing times while protecting the area from infection. Due to the unique permeability of the foam dressing, water vapor enters but bacteria can’t.

Foam wound dressings come in a variety of shapes and sizes. There are both adhesive and non-adhesive options available.


Transparent dressings are most commonly used when a doctor wants to closely monitor healing of a specific wound. Since transparent dressings are made using a clear film, it’s much easier to monitor wounds using this type of dressing in compared to a cloth or foam bandage. For this reason, transparent dressings are often used on larger, more complicated wounds.

Most frequently, transparent dressings are used on surgical incision sites, burns and ulcers, and IV sites2. Since the film is so thin, these dressings are considered more comfortable than others and are far more flexible.

When used correctly, transparent dressings will keep your wound clean, speed up healing, and allow you to monitor for complications.


Hydrocolloid dressings are a non-breathable, self-adhesive dressing2. They work by creating moist conditions to help speed up healing time and are made out of a flexible material for increased comfort. The surface of hydrocolloid dressings is coated with a substance containing polysaccharides and other polymers that work to absorb water and form a gel2. This gel is in direct contact with your wound and helps it heal faster.

These types of dressings are most commonly used on burns, light to moderately draining wounds, necrotic wounds, under compression wraps, and on pressure or venous ulcers3. They are one of the longest lasting types of dressings and their self-adhesive qualities make them easy to apply.


For dry wounds that need a little help healing, hydrogel is a great option. It acts in a way that adds moisture to your wound so it heals faster and breaks down dry, dead tissue1. This process helps increase patient comfort levels while simultaneously reducing pain caused by dead tissue. In some hydrogel products, a cooling gel is used for extra comfort.

Hydrogel wound dressings are commonly used on a large range of wounds. Wounds that emit little to no fluid need hydrogel dressings for a strong recovery. They’re also used on wounds that are unusually painful or necrotic. Due to the excess liquid in these dressings, which promotes cellular growth, hydrogel is good for second-degree burns and infected wounds2.


On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have alginate dressings. Alginate dressings are extremely absorbent and are used on wounds that have excessive drainage. The absorbency is up to 20x it’s weight1, making them perfect for extreme or deep wounds. Along with absorbency, alginate dressings also create a gel-like substance to help with the healing process.

They’re best used for burns, venous ulcers, packing wounds, and higher state pressure ulcers2. Do not use alginate on wounds that are already dry as they will hinder the healing process and create an environment that’s even drier. Alginate should only be used on wounds that are wet with large amounts of liquid drainage2.

Since alginate dressings are used on wounds with a lot of fluid, they need to be changed more often—every two days at the very least. Pay attention to your wound and determine whether or not they should be changed more frequently and if you’re unsure, talk to your doctor. When these types of dressings are changed too frequently, there is a bigger chance for excessive dryness and bacterial penetration.


Finally, there are collagen wound dressings. These types of dressings are most commonly used for chronic wounds with a slow or stalled healing time. They are also be used on pressure sores, transplant sites, surgical wounds, ulcers, burns, or injuries that cover a large area of your body2.

The difference between collagen dressings and the others we’ve discussed is that collagen dressings act as a temporary “second skin” that allows new cells to grow and flourish. Without it, the healing time would take much longer.

Collagen dressings are a good alternative to traditional bandaging because they help to promote healing in a number of different ways. Aside from providing a scaffolding system for new cells to accumulate, collagen dressings help remove dead tissue, encourage the formation of new blood vessels, and help tighten the wound’s edges2.

In addition to the common types of wound dressings, there are a number of other options available. If you’re injured and need a specific type of wound dressings, talk to your doctor to discuss the best course of action for your situation. Nothing beats a professional medical opinion.


If you want to protect yourself and your family from the complications of wounds, regardless of their size or type, it’s important to make sure you’re ready. The best way to be ready is to have a good supply of wound care supplies and any wound dressings you may need. Byram Healthcare is a leading wound care supplier with an outstanding Chronic Wound Program. We aim to help reduce costs to the health care system, patients, and any facilities that may need supplies. At Byram Healthcare, we have everything from bandages and gauze to unna boots, hydrogels, and compression bandages. Check out our wound care selection and request a comprehensive catalog on our website today!