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How to prevent pressure injuries

Self-management tips

man in wheelchair touching the ground
Reposition yourself and/or lean forwards or from side-to-side in your wheelchair. Try to lean for 2 minutes, at least once every hour.

man in wheelchair touching the ground
Reposition yourself and/or lean forwards or from side-to-side in your wheelchair. Try to lean for 2 minutes, at least once every hour.

Magnifying glass
Use a mirror and/or touch to see or feel your skin, or instruct others to check your skin if you cannot check it yourself.


Ensure you have a mattress that meets your needs.

illustration showing pillow placementAction: If you are using an air mattress, ask your therapist for instructions and then teach others how to use the equipment properly.

Learn how to look after and maintain your cushion, and always have a repair kit handy. Seating should be reviewed when replacing cushions, chairs or if problems develop. Avoid over-inflating your cushion, if you have the cushion shown in the picture.

Action: If unsure, see a seating specialist.

air cushion

Knowing how to identify skin damage can help you decide on the right course of action and recognise improvement or further breakdown.

Pressure injury chart
Understand the different stages of skin breakdown.
Early detection reduces time to healing, improves outcomes and decreases cost.

National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel logo
Image courtesy of The National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel 2016

image of feet on towel
Keep your skin clean and dry, especially after showering or swimming. Pay attention to the groin, between the buttocks and in between your toes.


t-shirt on a coat hanger
Tight-fitting clothes and shoes can damage skin.

Action: Wear clothes that are appropriate for the weather. Wear properly fitting shoes to avoid too much pressure which can cause an ingrown toenail.

a plate of food separated by colour
A healthy lifestyle will assist in keeping your skin healthy.

illustration of skin products
Powders can turn into tiny hard balls when moist, causing damage to the skin. Creams can make your skin ‘soggy’, making it more susceptible to breakdown.

Action: Avoid using powders and ensure creams are gently applied and completely absorbed.

spoon of different medicines in pill format
Understand the side effects of certain medications, such as sensitivity to sun if taking Baclofen (Lioresal) for spasms.

How to prevent heat injuries

When bathing

  • Check yourself or ask someone to check the water temperature by dipping the hand (with normal sensation) into the water for 5 seconds. If you feel comfortable, then the water temperature is safe.
  • Do not set your hot water system higher than 48 degrees Celsius.

Use of heat packs

  • Avoid them, especially on body parts with little to no sensation.

Household amenities

  • Do not sit too close to heat inside your house such as fireplaces, hot stove burners and radiators. When outdoors, don’t sit too close to campfires.
  • Do not use electric blankets.
  • Do not carry hot fluids or foods in your lap without a tray. Have a cup holder and do not overfill the cup.
thermometer showing hot temperature

How to prevent cold injuries

Outside in cold weather

  • Cover your head, nose, ears, chin and hands.
  • Wear warm socks and sturdy shoes.
  • Remove any wet clothing.

Please note: If you feel cold and tingling on your ears, then most likely your feet are cold too so move indoors.

Ice packs

  • Always wrap them in a towel.
  • Do not use them for more than 10 minutes.

Please note: Be careful with carrying frozen food on your lap in the supermarket.

Using a wheelchair

  • Wear gloves to push your manual wheelchair.

Please note: Wheelchair parts and gel cushion can get cold and may cause your skin to dry out, causing cracks, splits and cold injuries that are hard to heal.

thermometer showing cold

Take home messages

a plate of food separated by colour

a balanced diet

image of feet on towel

good hygiene with special attention to your groin and washing/drying between your toes

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how to identify signs of a pressure injury and skin breakdown

side profile of the layers that make up the skin

your pressure injury at an early stage

man in wheelchair touching the ground