Nurse assisting a patient on hospital bed and educating her on how to prevent bed sores

How To Prevent Bed Sores: 7 Steps To Take Today

If you’ve ever had the misfortune of getting a bed sore, then you know how painful they can be. Luckily they are preventable. It’s simply a matter of learning how to prevent bed sores. That’s where this blog comes in!

There are many simple things you can do to prevent bed sores from happening to you or your loved ones ever again. Today, we’ll help you learn more about bed sores and why they form, as well as how to prevent bed sores in seven actionable ways.

What are bed sores?

Before you learn how to prevent bed sores, it’s important to know what they are.

So what’s the deal with bed sores?

Bed sores, also known as pressure ulcers, are small skin ulcers that form on the folds of your lower back, buttocks, or feet. 

Bed sores are not only painful and difficult to treat, they put patients at a higher risk for infections such as sepsis, staphylococcus, streptococcus, and even candida yeast infections. 

Why do bed sores form?

Bed sores are caused by a combination of factors that make your skin more likely to tear, including poor muscle tone, nerve damage, pressure, and other inflammatory issues.

Bed sores occur when skin is too fragile to handle the pressure of sitting or sleeping in one position. The skin on your back and buttocks is thin and is also very fragile. When positioned in one place for an extended period, such as while sitting or sleeping, your skin can easily tear. 

When this happens, the under-layers of the skin are exposed. 

Bed sores all-too-commonly develop during a hospital stay. When they do, they are known as hospital-acquired pressure injuries. These occur when patients are bed-ridden, sitting in moisture, resting at an incline, or aren’t being turned frequently enough by nurses.

This underlines the importance of a nurse’s role in pressure ulcer prevention.

Who is most at risk for bed sores?

Bed sores can happen to anyone, but they're more likely to occur in people who are bedridden and unable to move themselves easily, or take medications that weaken their skin - like steroids. 

Patients with mobility issues are among the top group to develop bed sores. If these patients aren't turned often and positioned correctly, it's only a matter of time before bed sores form on vulnerable areas of the body. 

You’ll also be at a higher risk of contracting bed sores if you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease. People with these conditions are more likely to experience skin fragility because of the lack of circulation in their limbs. 

In addition, people who are overweight have more pressure on their skin. Fixing weight-related issues may play a big factor in how to prevent pressure ulcers.

Other factors can increase your risk of developing bed sores, including:

  • having health conditions that weaken your blood vessels
  • taking medications that interfere with blood flow
  • having a history of skin diseases
  • aging (skin becomes less elastic)

Once you develop bed sores, it’s hard to get rid of them, especially if you have an underlying condition like slowed diabetes wound healing. That’s why it’s vital to know how to prevent bed sores, and the first step to that is understanding the symptoms.

Bed sore symptoms to look out for

A critical step in learning how to prevent bed sores is knowing what signs to look for.

Bed sores can range in depth and severity, from changes in skin color to deep injuries involving muscle and bone. 

Your skin might feel irritated or change in color. You might notice bumps or lesions, or you might feel pain while you’re asleep. You also might see a clear fluid leaking, or hear a popping or cracking sound while sleeping. 

There are also some serious signs that indicate you should see a doctor as soon as possible. These include:

  • sudden changes in the color of your skin, such as purple or deep red bruising
  • a painful, open wound that begins to leak pus 
  • a loss of feeling in one area of the skin

Bed sores are serious, painful conditions that can lead to more serious complications if they aren’t taken care of quickly. 

As a caregiver, knowing how to prevent bed sores means being able to quickly assess a patient and detect the signs early to prevent costly mistakes for both the patient and the care facility. 

The true cost of bed sores

On average, the cost of treating bed sores for one patient can range from $20,900 to an astonishing $151,700 PER bed sore! Getting a bed sore while already in the hospital can add tens of thousands to your already expensive bill. 

Bed sores prevention products and treatments are not cheap - and they’re not all covered by insurance. That’s not to mention the embarrassment that can come with receiving treatment for them. 

However, the true cost of hospital-acquired pressure ulcers can go way beyond a hospital bill. If you don’t get them treated as soon as possible, bed sores can lead to a lot of pain and serious complications like cellulitis and even amputation. That’s why it’s so important to know how to prevent bed sores.

Bed sores simply aren’t something you should have to deal with. There are many viable ways to prevent them and spot them before they become a bigger issue. 

Learning how to prevent bed sores, and getting pressure ulcer treatment as soon as possible if you spot one, are your best chances. So, let’s discuss what you can do to prevent costly pressure ulcers from occurring. 

How to prevent bed sores: 7 steps to take today

Now that we’ve discussed the causes of bed sores, who is most at risk of developing them, and the cost associated with them - let’s discuss how to prevent bed sores. 

If you’re at risk of acquiring bed sores, there are numerous actions you can take to stop bed sores in their tracks.

1. Ensure a proper sleeping surface

One of the most common bed sores prevention products is an alternating pressure mattress. Alternating pressure mattresses are designed to provide instant relief to pressure points by filling and unfilling cells within the mattress. This rotates which parts of the body are experiencing pressure at a given time.

Unfortunately, this may be out of the picture for some people financially, or simply not available in their care facility. 

As another more budget-friendly option, sleeping with a gel mattress topper may provide a barrier between the patient and the sleeping surface. The gel not only provides padding, it is also a low-friction surface. This is important since friction is a common catalyst of bed sores

2. Invest in some cushions

When reasonable, getting out of bed and sitting elsewhere can help the process of how to prevent bed sores. Just like sleeping on a softer surface helps, so does sitting on a softer surface. 

Special cushions placed under pressure points may help relieve stress and promote blood flow. Cushions that envelop the body and take on the natural shape of the body allow the weight to be distributed more evenly.

The soles of the feet are also common areas for bed sores because of the pressure created in the heels while on bed rest. Special heel-elevated boots can be used to suspend the feet in mid-air, redistributing pressure through the calves and helping prevent or heal pressure ulcers.

3. Try barrier creams

Next on our list of how to prevent bed sores is barrier cream, a product applied directly to the skin to help it maintain its physical barrier and keep it from breaking down. 

The skin's main function is to keep what’s good in and what’s bad out, and barrier cream assists in this process. Barrier cream may help prevent bed sores by preventing moisture from sweat, urine, and contaminants from making the skin more susceptible to tearing.

4. Apply antimicrobial dressing

Specially designed dressings may help prevent bed sores and heal them faster. Dressings are made from compounds like alginate, hydrocolloid, foams, and gels. 

In wound care, antimicrobial dressings help to reduce and kill bacteria in bed sores. If a bed sore is infected, it should be disinfected as soon as possible to prevent the infection from spreading.

Dressings not only keep the area clean, they also provide extra cushion, and keep the area moist. These are some of the reasons why wounds heal faster when covered

5. Move your body

None of the aforementioned bed sores prevention products or devices will truly work if you and/or your caregiver don’t follow the most basic step on how to prevent bed sores - movement.

Getting up and moving around will help to keep the blood flowing throughout your body and prevent prolonged pressure in any one area. Transferring from the bed into a wheelchair is only the beginning – be sure to move your arms, legs, and feet around to prevent pressure buildup.

Of course, depending on the patient, movement isn’t always realistic. This is why having a nurse or caregiver to turn the patient is so important in some cases. 

Bed sores can develop in as little as 1-2 hours when the blood supply to the skin is cut off, so knowing how to prevent bed sores by moving a patient should be a priority for any caregiver.

For patients who are on bed rest, it is important for them to be repositioned at a minimum every 2-4 hours.

6. Check for bed sores often

When changing positions, check for any moisture, friction, or skin changes in areas that may be vulnerable to bed sores. This is important, because bed sores need to be caught early on if there is hope for easy treatment. 

7. Improve your nutrition

How does nutrition affect pressure ulcers? In numerous ways! 

Nutrition plays a vital role in how to prevent bed sores. While there isn’t a food you can eat that can magically make bed sores heal, ensuring proper nutrition can help prevent underlying conditions that would make you more susceptible to developing bed sores. 

For example, diet is linked to comorbidities like diabetes and obesity, which are in turn linked to an increased risk in bed sores. 

In addition, studies show that deficiencies in nutrients and a poor diet are one of the key risk factors for developing pressure ulcers

The food that you eat can play a role in your body’s ability to heal itself from bed sores as well. Protein is one of the nutrients essential to your body’s healing process. In particular, collagen protein helps repair damage done to your connective tissues and cells.

This means that when you have an injury or wound in the layers of your skin, such as a bed sore, collagen protein is one of the main components your body needs to heal it. 

Of course, if you have decreased circulation due to an underlying condition, or lower collagen levels because of your age, the wound site might not be receiving enough collagen for bed sores to heal properly. That’s where collagen supplementation comes in. 

Collagen for bed sores

The medical world frequently uses collagen in wound-healing procedures. And bed sores are no different. Collagen for bed sores can help speed up the recovery process by providing ample stores of healing collagen fibers. 

Collagen may also help prevent bed sores by improving the strength and elasticity of your skin.  This can help speed up the recovery process of bed sores and it plays a vital role in how to prevent bed sores.

If you want to try the healing benefits of collagen for bed sores, it’s important to look for the right supplement. Most collagen supplements are not regulated by the FDA, and may contain additives or be difficult to digest. 

The exception is medical-grade collagen like the collagen products from ProT Gold. Medical-grade collagen has been rigorously tested and overseen by medical professionals, and is declared safe for use in medical nutrition.

ProT Gold hydrolyzed collagen comes in both powder form and convenient liquid single-serve pouches, and is fully digestible in just 15 minutes or less - making this supplement an easy addition to your bed sore healing and prevention routine.