Bed sores — also known as pressure sores or ulcers — are injuries to the skin and underlying tissue, as a result of prolonged pressure on the skin.
They can happen to anyone, but what many of us don’t realise is how much we toss and turn as we sleep, which helps to redistribute the pressure between our bodies and the mattress. However, if you’re confined to bed due to illness or injury, you may move very little, if at all. Therefore, those who are confined to a bed or who sit in a chair or wheelchair for long periods of time are far more at risk.
Pressure ulcers can affect any part of the body that's put under pressure, but they’re most common on bony parts of the body, such as the heels, elbows, hips and base of the spine. They often develop gradually, but can sometimes form in a few hours. Readquick ways to grade pressure ulcersfor more information on what each stage looks like.
As with anything, prevention is always better than cure, so what can you do to avoid pressure sores? It can be difficult to prevent them completely, but here are five suggestions that you or your care team can do to reduce the risk.
1. Regularly Change Your Position
Regularly reposition yourself or your patient to avoid putting consistent stress on your skin, which helps to prevent pressure ulcers. If you use a wheelchair, shift your weight every 15 minutes and ask for help with repositioning about once an hour. Some speciality wheelchairs allow you to tilt them, which can also relieve pressure.
If you’re in bed for long periods of time, adjust the elevation, if this is an option, to prevent shearing. If your bed can be elevated at the head, raise it no more than 30 degrees.
2. Use Pressure Relief Products
Airospring pressure relief cushions are an easy way to relieve pressure and help to ensure your body is well-positioned. Every cushion provides airflow as you move to maintain a comfortable temperature, which keeps you cool and comfortable all year long. They are also machine washable, come in a variety of shapes, styles and colours to fit your needs, and are more comfortable and longer lasting than memory foam or gel cushions. Pressure relief mattress toppers are also an effective weight distribution option to avert morning stiffness, soreness and aches. Read our blog post on What Does a Mattress Topper Do? for more information.
3. Check Your Skin Every Day
Pressure ulcers can develop in as little as four hours, so it is important to check your skin every day for anything new.
If you or someone you know is at risk of developing pressure ulcers, it’s essential to know what to look for. Make regular body checks, and if you notice anything different, compare the patch against the four pressure ulcer categories. Read our blog post on Quick Ways to Grade Pressure Ulcers for more information.
If you don't see improvement in 24 to 48 hours, contact your doctor. Seek immediate medical care if you show signs of infection, such as a fever, drainage from a sore, a sore that smells bad, or increased redness, warmth or swelling around a sore.
4. Use Pillows
Another effective way to prevent bed sores is to put pillows between parts of your body that press against each other. You can place them under your tailbone, shoulders, heels and elbows — anywhere that you know is vulnerable. If you are lying on your side, it is better to put the pillow between your knees and ankles.
5. Enjoy a Healthy, Balanced Diet
When it comes to preventing pressure sores, maintaining the health of your skin is crucial, which means paying careful attention to nutrition. This is because weight loss, inadequate protein intake, a poor variety of vitamins and minerals, and a very low or very high body mass index, could slow down the wound-healing process where pressure sores already exist.
Therefore, eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of maintaining good health, and can help you feel your best, so try to consume the right amount of food and drink to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
If you’re struggling with pressure ulcers, Airospring has designed a unique range of products that provide greater comfort and protection for relief, including pressure relief cushions and pressure relief mattresses. Each cushion is made from at least three layers of fabric, which spread the weight between them so that the pressure isn’t localised on one small area. View our products today.