Gauze is a type of thin fabric with a very open weave. It has a number of uses, ranging from the operating room to the theater, and a variety of types are manufactured to suit various needs. Many fabric supply stores carry gauze, and it is also available from drug stores and medical supply companies. Material designed for medical uses is very useful in a first aid kit, as it can be used to wrap wounds, staunch bleeding, and pad wounds before they are bandaged.
The word comes from the Arabic qazz, which means “raw silk.” In the first sense, gauze is a type of light, very airy fabric which can be used in garments and draperies. When it is worn, thicker fabrics are typically worn underneath, for modesty, or the gauze may be layered to obscure the details of the body underneath. In performances, the material is often used to create a scrim upon which shadows can be projected, creating more visual interest on the stage.
In the medical sense, gauze is a highly absorbent material, classically made from cotton, which is used to dress wounds and stop bleeding. In addition to cotton, it can also be made from silk and some synthetics, and medical versions are often saturated in an anti-bacterial solution to reduce the risk of infection. Some medical gauze is also treated with clotting agents, to help stop bleeding on wounds. It is often sold with surgical tape, which can be used to affix the material dressings to the body.
A wad can be used to apply pressure to a wound, or to pack a deep wound. Gauze pads are also used during surgical procedures to sop up blood and other fluids, and it is commonly integrated into wound dressings to allow air to circulate around the site, promoting rapid healing. In addition to sheets and pads, it is also possible to find gauze sponges for medical use. It may also be soaked in various substances and used to wrap burn victims, protecting their delicate skin and flesh from further injury.
The term is also used to refer to metal with a very fine metal mesh. This type of gauze is commonly used as a spark arrestor around open fires, as the mesh prevents sparks from flying through and igniting objects around the fire. It can also be used to create window screens, ensuring that insects and other creatures stay out while air continues to circulate.