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Reduce swelling and improve circulation — Unna boot application guide

Unna boot application guide

Marc Kaplan |


Patients who have wounds in difficult to manage places, such as their feet or ankles, may benefit from the usage of a Unna boot. The original Unna boot was invented in 1896. The creator, a German dermatologist named Paul Gerson Unna, specialized in skin care problems and treatment. The Unna boot is designed to provide protection as the wound heals while simultaneously keeping the wound site moist and itch-free. An Unna boot dressing, unlike a traditional bandage, is specifically designed to make healing as comfortable and quick as possible.

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How should you apply an Unna boot application?

The first step in applying an Unna boot dressing is to clean the wound. Ensure the wound is completely cleaned and that any necessary ointments or medications have been applied. The patient's foot will then need to be angled to 90 degrees. This ensures that the Unna boot application doesn't bunch or become loose after it is applied. Remember that a patient should be able to wear their Unna boot application for up to a week, so plan for them to keep the application on for awhile.

Begin with the foot and wrap the Unna boot application up to the patient's knee. Never stop the dressing mid-calf. It's important for the Unna boot application to be applied up to the knee. This enables swelling to occur if necessary. As many patients may experience swelling at some point, proper application of the zinc oxide paste dressing is vital. Ensure you don't wrap the zinc oxide paste bandage too tightly. Instead, leave space for the patient to move around as necessary. An Unna boot application is designed for patients who are active and who move frequently, so keep this in mind as you dress the wound.


What are some techniques for applying an Unna boot dressing?

When you're ready to apply a dressing for appropriate wound care, there are a few things you need to know.

  • Take your time. Learning how to apply a dressing properly won't happen overnight. Give yourself time to learn.
  • Leave space. Always leave space when you apply a dressing. If you apply the zinc oxide dressing too tightly, the patient won't be able to comfortably move around. Remember that while Unna boot uses vary, they're designed for comfortable movement.
  • Talk with the patient. Always discuss the dressing directly with the patient. Ask if the dressing feels comfortable, too tight, or too loose. No one understands the patient better than he or she does, so communicate throughout the entire process.

Understand that each patient is different. Many patients have a high pain tolerance, while others find even the slightest touch to be uncomfortable. Make sure you discuss the patient's preferences and pain levels prior to applying the dressing to their leg. The application of the Unna boot will not be painful; however, many patients may be nervous, so make sure you walk them through the process prior to beginning.

Typically, a spiral wrap is used to apply an Unna boot. This is a standard, basic application of the boot. To utilize a basic spiral wrap, you'll begin at the base of the foot. Move the bandage around the foot in a spiral rotation and make your way up the leg. Each time you wrap the dressing around the foot, you'll move the dressing slowly upward. Take care to ensure you cover all of the skin and that the bandage stays tight enough to remain in place once you're finished.

Another common method of wrapping a patient's foot is an open wrap. To begin with an open wrap, you'll once more start at the base of the patient's foot. You'll then wrap the dressing material around the foot. When you reach the top of the patient's foot, stop. Fold the material back and wrap in the opposite direction. When you reach the top of the foot once more, you'll stop again. Now, reverse the direction of the wrap and begin once more. With this style of wrapping, the dressing remains open.

The type of method used to wrap will depend on the Unna boot uses you're most comfortable with. Always discuss the method used with your patient and attending physician, if applicable. Make sure the Unna boot is properly wrapped to ensure the patient receives the most benefit from the wrap. The primary purpose of a Unna boot is to assist the patient in recovering from their open wounds and sores, which means it's very important that the wrap is tight enough to remain in place, yet loose enough that the patient can move comfortably and without pain or discomfort.


What are some common Unna boot uses?

An Unna boot is typically used for wound care. Quick and proper wound care is essential, regardless of the type of wound. Left untreated, wounds can become infected or scar, so it's important to receive treatment as soon as you notice a wound developing. Most common Unna boot uses include burn care and treatment for venous stasis ulcers. Because an Unna boot utilizes moisturizing components, patients will find that Unna boot uses vary. Typically, a patient will benefit from using a Unna boot after a difficult burn or an ulcer that hasn't healed on its own.


How long should an Unna boot be used for?

Unna boot uses vary, and so does the possible length of use. When it comes to wound care, the ultimate goal is to keep the wound clean and allow it to heal as quickly as possible. The zinc oxide paste in a Unna boot enables this to happen. Typically, a single application of a Unna boot with zinc oxide paste may be used for up to a week. Understand, however, that this is just an estimate. If the wound leaks and soils the zinc oxide paste dressing, it's important to change it immediately. Also keep in mind that an Unna boot dressing cannot get wet. If the patient wishes to shower or bathe, he or she needs to cover the Unna boot application. Patients can use plastic to do this. If a zinc oxide paste dressing does become wet, it will need to be changed and replaced. Always talk with your patients about how long they can plan to use their Unna boot for. This way, there will be no surprises when it comes to the length of wound care and zinc oxide bandage use.


What else do I need to know about an Unna boot?

One of the most fantastic aspects of utilizing the zinc oxide cream in wound care is that it reduces itching and irritability of the skin. Many patients find that their skin becomes itchy as it heals, but zinc oxide minimizes this sensation. Additionally, because patients won't be too itchy and will feel comfortable moving around, it's possible to continue on with your daily life even while you utilize this type of bandage. Patients who wear an Unna boot bandage can perform regular daily tasks and can even leave their house. It's possible to wear both socks and shoes over an Unna's boot bandage.


What is zinc oxide?

This is an incredibly useful compound that is frequently utilized in treating skin problems. Zinc does occur naturally in a mineral form called zincite, but most of the time, zinc oxide is created synthetically. Chances are that you've heard of this useful product before, even if you don't realize it. For example, zinc is used in calamine lotion. Calamine lotion is commonly used to treat insect bites, insect stings, sunburn rashes, and chickenpox. Calamine lotion works to draw the itching out of common rashes and can reduce discomfort on the skin.

Similarly, zinc oxide is also used in many diaper rash ointment creams. Because zinc offers so many healing and anti-itch properties, it's an incredibly useful ingredient when it comes to treating minor rashes for both children and adults. Some adults even use zinc-based medical tape during their workouts in order to prevent minor injuries from occurring, especially if they also play sports.

When it comes to Unna boot uses, zinc oxide paste is utilized for its anti-itch properties. Zinc can be used to minimize oozing and dry out wet rashes, which makes it the perfect choice for patients who struggle with these skin conditions.

Whether you have a patient dealing with prolonged wound care problems or someone who has only recently developed issues, an Unna boot could be the perfect choice in assisting them with wound care treatment. The right Unna boot can make a huge difference when it comes to patient treatment and care. Always discuss your patient's preferred treatment methods when discussing options for healing skin problems, such as ulcers and burns. You and your patient may discover that an Unna boot is truly a life-changed when it comes to healing burns, ulcers, and other skin disorders in a comfortable, simple way.


Zinc Oxide

Diabetes and foot burns

Foot Ulcers

On to you

Do you have experience using Unna boot? Or do you know someone who does? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Let us know if you have any questions and always feel free to contact us directly over the phone if you have any concerns.


-Marc Kaplan

CEO, Save Rite Medical


Marc Kaplan is founder and CEO of Save Rite Medical — the leading provider of wholesale medical supplies. A salesman by day and educator by night, Marc enjoys providing valuable ways and alternatives to living a healthier lifestyle.