What is Antimicrobial Dressing?

Mary McMahon

An antimicrobial dressing is a wound dressing which is designed to inhibit the growth of microbes in and around the wound. Such dressings are utilized in cases where there are concerns about infection and care providers would like to limit opportunities for infectious agents to colonize a wound site as much as possible. Many wound care catalogs stock a variety of antimicrobial dressings for use on various types of wounds and they are also sometimes available through drug stores as well as medical supply stores.

Gauze is often a base for an antimicrobial dressing.
Gauze is often a base for an antimicrobial dressing.

The dressing may have a foam, fabric, film, sponge, or gauze base. It is impregnated with an agent which inhibits microbial growth. When applied to a clean wound, the antimicrobial dressing will prevent microbes from growing on the wound and bandage, keeping the patient more comfortable. The design can also be layered so that the bandage can absorb fluids which seep from the wound and perform other functions such as keeping a wound hydrated.

To use an antimicrobial dressing, the first step involves thoroughly cleaning the wound. This includes removing dead tissue and irrigating the wound to remove any potential infectious agents. After cleaning, a topical solution may be applied if needed, and then followed by the antimicrobial dressing, which can be self adhesive or designed to be taped down with bandage tape.

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These types of bandages can be used on burn wounds, deep cuts, surgical sites, and the areas around sites of catheters and other tubes, such as a tube for a colostomy drainage site. It is important that the bandages be changed regularly and the wounds inspected because even an antimicrobial dressing can eventually fail if it is left in place too long and exudate from the wound accumulates. When wounds are inspected, they are also cleaned again so that the fresh bandage is applied to a freshly cleaned wound site and any microbes introduced during the change will be flushed during the cleaning.

The length of time required between bandage changes varies. One thing to be aware of with an antimicrobial dressing or any other dressing is that there is a chance is may adhere to the wound, even when it is designed to limit sticking. Thus, such bandages should be removed carefully, with close attention to discomfort on the part of the patient which might indicate that the bandage is sticking. It is also important that the bandage be kept out of water and other materials which might contaminate the wound.

Discussion Comments


While it's important to keep wounds from developing infections, you are best off finding a natural solution to this problem.

Too often now, bacteria are being exposed to antimicrobial compounds and are becoming immune. This is where superbugs come from. They are pretty scary, as they are difficult to maintain and they are getting stronger.

If you don't urgently need to use an antimicrobial dressing, just allow your skin to heal naturally.


One of the most interesting anti-microbial dressings being used now is one made from manuka honey from New Zealand. One of the students in my class used to be a nurse and she told us about it.

They are relatively expensive at the moment, but they work really well and in a natural way. Honey is almost naturally antimicrobial, which is why it doesn't go off even when you keep it in the cupboard for months. The honey also draws fluid toward the wound, helping it to heal.

Honey has been used for a long time to heal wounds. Manuka honey seems to have all the best qualities of other kinds of honey, plus more.

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