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Why Does It Hurt to Pull off an Adhesive Bandage?

It hurts to remove adhesive bandages because of the way they're designed. Most are made of one layer of cloth or plastic on top of a layer of adhesive, which sticks to the skin and hair. When a person pulls the bandage off, it pulls on the skin and hair as it's removed, causing pain. This can be a larger concern for very young or old people who have thinner skin, in which case the adhesive can actually cause the skin to tear. In fact, around 1.5 million injuries a year are caused by removing adhesive bandages.

More on bandages:

  • Some types of adhesive bandages are designed to be pain-free when removed. These have the adhesive separate away from the bandage instead of the skin during removal so that there's less pulling. Other prototype designs for pain-free bandages are made of natural materials that degrade over time, meaning that a person wouldn't have to remove them at all.

  • One easy way to remove a bandage painlessly is to gently rub oil or lotion onto the bandaged area until the bandage comes off. Heating it with a hairdryer before removal can also soften the adhesive and make it easier to pull off.

  • Research indicates that removing an adhesive bandage slowly is more painful than removing it quickly. One study from Australian scientists found that people rated the pain from pulling a bandage off slowly to be about a 1.58 on a 1 to 10 scale, as opposed to 0.92 for removing it quickly.

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More Info: www.pnas.org

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