What is a Wound Cover?

Alex Tree

A wound cover or dressing is any suitable piece of material that covers and protects a wound. It is primarily used to prevent infection and to facilitate the healing process of broken skin. Organic sources such as plant parts, animal fat, and honey were some of the materials used as wound covers in ancient times, while synthetic polymers constitute wound covers from the 20th century. The type of wound dictates which cover is to be used. A wound cover may be passive, interactive, or bioactive.

A wound cover refers to any piece of material that covers a wound.
A wound cover refers to any piece of material that covers a wound.

Debris and germs can enter the skin through a wound, such as a deep cut or even a simple scratch. This can cause infection that worsens the severity of the wound and can possibly spread to other parts of the body. A wound cover acts as a physical barrier that protects the wound against the elements, which can harbor microbes. Germs are blocked from entering, and the natural healing process of the skin is allowed to progress. Some wound covers contain chemicals that hasten wound healing, fight infection, and minimize scarring.

Gauze covers larger wounds and is easier to apply around extremities of the body such as hands, feet/ankles, or arms.
Gauze covers larger wounds and is easier to apply around extremities of the body such as hands, feet/ankles, or arms.

A proper wound assessment will determine what type of wound cover should be used for a wound. The three basic types of wound covers are passive, interactive, and bioactive. A passive wound cover such as a gauze or tulle will serve as a simple cover to allow healing of minor wounds. Interactive wound covers like semi-permeable films and foams and amorphous gels absorb exudates and remove dead tissue from shallow wounds. Bioactive wound covers like alginates, hydrocolloids, and collagens are suitable for exudative, sloughing, and granulating wounds.

The people of old utilized materials from their environment to cover a bleeding wound and other injuries to the skin. Vegetable fiber, roots, and leaves were sourced from surrounding plants. Fats, skin, and honey were some of the materials used from animals. Knowledge of the wound-healing properties of these wound covers were based not on science but from experience, folklore, and traditional medicine.

Over the centuries, those studying medicine developed a better understanding of wound healing. This knowledge created a demand for better dressings that culminated in the development of wound covers made of synthetic material during the 20th century. These advanced wound covers are composed of polymers, which are fabricated in complex ways. A synthetic wound cover has better protective and healing properties than old and traditional types. Different proprietary types of wound covers can be applied to every kind of wound.

Wound covers are used to prevent infection.
Wound covers are used to prevent infection.

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Discussion Comments


I can see the logic behind using honey as a wound cover. It is one of the stickiest substances known to man, and even people without any medical knowledge or assistance could put two and two together.

Honey could easily help a wound close up. At the very least, it could hold the skin together and block bacteria and dirt from entering the wound.

I have heard that honey never spoils, so people without refrigerators could have kept it on hand without worrying. My great-grandparents told me that they used to put honey on my grandmother's cuts, and it worked better than any kind of bandage.


I have five large dogs, so I often get scrapes and cuts from wrestling with them. They tend to gang up on me, and their toenails are pretty sharp. I usually get at least one small slash on my arms or legs per week.

To cover these wounds, I like to use a liquid bandage. It sprays on and is waterproof. I wash my hands a lot, so this is a big plus for me.

I wash my wound and dry it before spraying on the bandage. I usually do two coats, but I let the first one dry before spraying on another.

This is a great wound cover for small cuts and scrapes. It won't wash off in the shower, and it allows my skin to breathe. To remove it, I just apply a fresh coat and wipe it off right away.


@shell4life – I understand your logic, but I think that interactive and bioactive wound covers would be best for deep or large wounds. These would need a better treatment than the kind used for small cuts.

My cousin had a deep and wide wound after she fell off a motorcycle. This wound was so bad that it actually needed the sloughing and absorption that a better wound cover could provide.

Had she simply wrapped gauze around it, it probably would have deepened, and she could have become very ill from a nasty infection. For bigger wounds, I really think it's best to let a doctor decide on the ideal wound cover.


I prefer gauze over wound covers that are interactive. It just seems safer.

I know that certain wound covers are really supposed to help you heal faster, but I just have a fear of developing an allergy to them. It would be terrible to irritate an area already traumatized and vulnerable. I can't imagine how itchy and raw it would become.

I know that I'm not allergic to gauze, because I use it all the time. It just sits on top of my skin where it is supposed to be and protects me from the elements.

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