There are three main types of first-aid bandages:
- Wound bandages
- Bandages for soft tissue and bone injuries
These can be further divided into 19 types based on their shape, material, and unique properties.
You probably don’t need all 19 types of dressings and bandages in your home first aid kit. However, it’s still wise to know the basic types to customize your first aid kit and be more prepared.
Table Of Contents
- Wound Bandages
- Soft Tissue and Bone Bandages
Dressings technically aren’t a type of bandage. In wound first aid, they are applied directly to the wound to stop bleeding, absorb blood, protect the wound and promote healing.
Bandages are applied over a dressing to hold it in place. However, especially with compound dressing bandages, the terms are often used interchangeably.
Most dressings are categorized by what they are made of.
1. Gauze and Cloth Dressings
Also called: Sterile non-adhesive pads, non-woven dressing, sterile bandages, sterile gauze.
These are the most common type of dressing. They typically come as pads, rolls, or sponges. The weave and material help prevent the dressing from sticking to the wound.
Some gauze and cloth dressings, such as QuikClot, have antibacterial or hemostatic agents applied to them.
2. Foam Dressings
Foam dressings provide good wound padding and an environment that speeds up skin cell formation. They also help keep the wound moist, making them ideal for wet wounds from burns, ulcers, scrapes, deep trauma, and infected wounds.
Foam dressings are commonly impregnated with silver to speed up wound healing.
3. Hydrogel Dressings
Hydrogel dressings are primarily made of water in a gel base. The gel often comes impregnated on a sheet or pad, but it is also available as a gel. The gel helps pad the wound and keep it moist.
They are often used on painful wounds to maximize comfort and wounds with necrotic or dead tissue.
4. Transparent Film Dressings
These dressings are made of a thin, flexible film applied directly over the wound like a second skin. Their transparency makes it easy to monitor injuries. Transparent film dressings are only to be used on wounds without exudate.
They are often used on second-degree burns or wounds on fragile skin.
Read: How to Treat a Burn
5. Hydrocolloid Dressings
Hydrocolloid dressings are used for wet wounds, especially those at risk of infection but not yet infected. They are made out of polymers which turn into a gel when they absorb moisture.
They aren’t breathable but do a better job of keeping the wound clean. This helps keep wounds moist and speed up healing. Hydrocolloid dressings last longer than traditional dressings and can be left in place for 7 days.
6. Alginate Dressings
Alginate dressings are highly absorbent and form a gel as they absorb moisture. They are used to fill wound cavities and wounds with lots of exudate. Alginate dressings should be covered with a secondary dressing to keep the wound clean.
7. Silicone Dressings
Silicone dressings come in sheets, as gels, on tapes, and on foam. They will only stick to dry skin and not moist skin, making it easier to change the dressing without pulling on the healing tissue. The silicone also allows exudate to escape and provides cushioning. They are mainly used on patients with thin, sensitive skin.
Wound bandages are typically used to hold a dressing in place. They are often categorized by their shape (tube, triangle, roller, pad, strips) or material (gauze, cotton, woven, non-woven, liquid).
8. Adhesive Bandages
Also called: Band-Aids
These are what most people associate with bandages. They consist of two parts: a dressing pad and an adhesive backing. Adhesive bandages are suitable for minor wounds on parts of the body that don’t move much.
When the bandage is removed, the sticky backing can pull on the wound, so they aren’t recommended for more serious injuries.
9. Gauze Bandages
Gauze bandages come in various sizes, thicknesses, weaves, and materials. They are used to hold sterile dressings in place. Because they are not meant to come in direct contact with the wound, gauze bandages do not need to be sterile.
10. Tube bandage
Tube bandages are woven to make a continuous circle. The shape makes them ideal for holding dressings on arms and legs and stopping bleeding. Because they apply light pressure, tube bandages can also treat sprains.
11. Moleskin Bandages
Moleskin bandages are made of a thick, fluffy material and usually have an adhesive on one side. They are applied directly over blisters, corns, and calluses to reduce friction and provide cushioning. Most moleskin bandages are made from thick cotton.
12. Liquid Bandages
Liquid bandages are sprayed or painted onto wounds. They act like glue and hold the edges of the wound together. This makes liquid bandages suitable for long and thin wounds, like minor knife wounds. They are not recommended for large, deep wounds.
13. Suture Bandages
Also called: Butterfly bandage, zip stitch, Steri-Strips
Suture bandages are long, thin strips designed to hold skin together. They are used as an alternative to sutures, especially for long, narrow wounds like from knives. Butterfly bandages are the simplest type of suture bandage. Newer, more advanced types of suture bandages use zippers or pulls.
14. Triangle Bandage
A triangle bandage is a multi-purpose bandage. Its large size and shape make it useful for applying pressure to bleeding wounds, wrapping sprains, splinting broken bones, and securing dressings.
It is often included in field kits because it has many survival uses, such as filtering water.
15. Emergency Bandages
Also called: Trauma bandages, Israeli bandage, military bandage, compression bandage.
Emergency bandages are designed to treat severe trauma and bleeding quickly. Typically they consist of multiple parts: a dressing, a pressure application bar, and a closure mechanism. The dressing may contain a hemostatic agent. The most well-known emergency bandage is the one designed by the Israeli military.
Also see Israeli bandage vs tourniquet
Soft Tissue and Bone Bandages
These bandages treat injuries to muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones. They usually come in very long rolls, which are wrapped around the affected body part.
16. Elastic Bandage
Also called: Ace bandage, tensor bandage, compression bandage,
An elastic bandage is made of stretchy cloth. It is wrapped around sprained limbs to limit movement and provide support.
17. Kinesiology Tape
Kinesiology (KT) tape is an adhesive tape designed to mimic the skin’s elasticity. It is applied to muscles or ligaments to provide light support. It is used to treat injuries, reduce pain and retrain muscles. KT tape generally isn’t recommended for sprains as it does not immobilize as an elastic bandage will.
18. Cohesive Bandage
Cohesive bandages are made from a material that sticks to itself but won’t stick to skin or hair. Because they provide strong compression, cohesive bandages are mainly used to stabilize joints. Many athletes wear them to prevent injuries. It is also commonly used by vets.
19. Plaster of Paris Bandage
These bandages contain plaster of Paris on them. You wet the bandage and mold it around a fracture injury to form a hard cast and completely restrict movement.