Exudate & Pus

Exudate is produced as a natural part of the healing process. At one time, exudate was considered unhealthy or at the very least a nuisance. However, recent knowledge reveals that exudate is a helpful and nourishing part of wound healing. Healthy exudate is made from protein-rich fluid which leaks from the porous site of injury. Its purpose is to promote a healthy moist healing environment.[1] Exudate can be minor, moderate, or heavy and therefore different wound dressings will be necessary.

Assessing Your Wound’s Exudate

If you’re not a medical professional, it can be difficult to tell whether a wound’s exudate is minor, moderate, or heavy. To keep an eye on your wound’s status, check on things like:

  • The rate of dressing changes. If you are changing a dressing infrequently, it’s likely that you have minor exudate. Normally, a dressing for a minor wound can be changed every eight hours depending on the dressing. A moderate and heavy amount of exudate will mean that your dressing will likely be changed much more often.
  • How well your dressing is keeping in place. A moderate to heavy amount of exudate will cause more leakage at the wound site. This fluid will cause the dressing to lose its ability to adhere to the site. A dressing to a wound with minor exudate should stay firmly in place.
  • Comfort of dressing removal. The more exudate that a wound produces, the easier it will be to remove the dressing.
  • Saturation of the dressing. How wet is the dressing when you change it every eight hours? Is it dry or moist? If dry, this is likely a minor amount of wound exudate. If it is wet or saturated it may be moderate. If the dressing is saturated or leaking from the dressing before eight hours, it’s likely a heavy amount of exudate.

When to See Your Health Care Professional

Visit your health care professional if your wound doesn’t seem to be healing correctly, if there is a lack of scab formation, no change in the wound’s size, or continued bleeding from the site. These may be signs of a more serious underlying issue that delays wound healing.

Redness around the wound site, streaking red lines beneath the skin, a temperature above 37°C, swelling, and foul-smelling exudate or pus may all indicate wound infection and will need treatment from a medical professional.

If the wound begins bleeding profusely or has high-pressured bleeding, it should be dealt with at an emergency care facility immediately. A doctor’s visit should be made if you are regularly bleeding through your bandage in less than eight hours. As with all of these signs and symptoms of improper wound healing, delayed treatment can be serious and can cause worsening systems, the need for emergency surgery, or worse. Don’t neglect your health care. If you’re unsure about your wound’s healing, its exudate or pus, seek medical treatment.


[1] Wound exudate and the role of dressings. Wounds International. 2016. Available at: http://www.woundsinternational.com/media/issues/82/files/content_42.pdf. Accessed August 23, 2016.