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Handbook for Mortals : Managing Other Symptoms

Bed Sores: What are they? Can I do anything to prevent them?

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When you are very sick, you are prone to have skin breakdown wherever the weight of your body presses into the bed. You are at greatest risk if you move very little or you are in bed or in a chair for a long time, especially if you also have been losing weight. Ordinary pressure on the skin as you sit or move across sheets may be enough to tear or breakdown your skin. It is worth a great deal of effort to keep skin well-protected; skin breakdown is uncomfortable, a major indignity, and costly.

Protecting Your Skin

  • Change position at least every two hours. If you are in bed and comfortable in most positions, it is good to lie on one side, then your back, then the other side. Have a skilled nurse show your family members how to help you shift positions comfortably.
  • Use pillows to protect the common pressure points, which are under the heels and elbows and between the knees.
  • Apply gentle massage with moisturizing lotion or cream to the back, arms, ears, hands, legs, and feet.
  • If you are at great risk for skin breakdown, you may want to get a special "flotation" bed, which can be rented for home use.
  • If you or your family notices reddened or broken skin on pressure points, call your doctor or nurse immediately. You may need special medications, dressings, or bed accessories (such as soft pads or heel protectors) to provide added skin protection.

Other symptoms:

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