Medical gauze is a sterile fabric used to cover or wrap wounds. Usually made from woven cotton or synthetic fibers, it allows wounds to “breathe” while absorbing seeped fluids. In addition, it is less likely to stick to wounds than many other fabric types. Medical gauze is available in many different shapes and sizes. Additionally, some forms of gauze are dry, while others are saturated with antibacterial ointments, lubricants, or other healing agents.
Cotton has long been the chief material used in the manufacture of medical gauze. Its popularity is based largely on its breathability, its absorbency, and the fact that it does not tend to stick to wounds. Cotton medical gauze is generally woven from fine fibers. Its weave may be loose, allowing large amounts of air to penetrate the wound below it, or tight, keeping the wound well insulated from the environment. The choice between loose- or tight-weave gauze is generally dictated by the specific nature of a wound and its stage in the healing process.
In the 20th century, synthetic materials also became a popular choice for gauze manufacture. Often, synthetic gauze is not actually woven, but rather stamped to appear as though it has been woven. In many cases, its breathability, absorbency, and ability to resist sticking are equal or even superior to those of cotton.
There are many different shapes and sizes of medical gauze. It is generally available in large or small rolls, in strips, in small pads, and in large sheets which can be cut to fit a particular wound. Small packages of gauze can be purchased from a drugstore or pharmacy for individual use. It is also available in bulk quantities from medical supply retailers.
Some medical gauze is classified as dry. This kind of gauze has not been infused with any supplemental healing agents. It may be the best choice for a wound which is producing large amounts of discharge, as it can easily absorb this seepage.
Other types of medical gauze are treated with a supplemental healing agent such as petroleum jelly or antiseptic at the time of their manufacture. These healing agents can perform several functions. First of all, they can keep the wound moisturized. This in turn may prevent the gauze from adhering to the wound. Finally, some healing agents have antibacterial properties, which can help lower the risk of infection at the site of a wound.