What Are the Differences between a Bandage and Dressing?

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  • Written By: Erik J.J. Goserud
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2019
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The words bandage and dressing are very similar and loosely defined, making it sometimes difficult to understand the difference between the two. There is no textbook answer to this question; however, generally speaking, a bandage is more of a supportive device used to hold a dressing in place. A dressing is usually in direct contact with the wound or injury and differs from a bandage in that it aims to heal, whereas a bandage simply supports healing.

There are a plethora of dressings and bandages in existence. This makes sense with all of the possible conditions that a person can experience. A burn, abrasion, cut, or other injury may require a particular type of dressing. Each dressing, depending on size, location, and other factors, needs to be held in place in a particular fashion in order to be effective. This is how the bandage and dressing are so closely related.

A bandage and dressing can act to stop a cut from bleeding or heal a chronic wound — this medical marriage should not be underestimated in importance. The dressing tends to be more expensive than its counterpart due to the possibility for specialization. Dressings sometimes contain antibacterial agents, such as silver, or are made of expensive materials like skin grafts or silicon. Factors like these can make the application of a bandage and dressing quite expensive.


The most common type of bandage is gauze. This is a rolled form of gauze that most people are familiar with as a household item. Sometimes, this is referred to clinically as kling or conform. Although there are different names, most variations refer to the same woven, rolled fabric designed to hold dressings in place, provide cushioning, and absorb drainage possibly associated with the injury at hand.

Gauze is very useful for a variety of reasons. One is the ease at which it can be applied. Sometimes, wounds or other health conditions present themselves in unique areas of the body. Only products similar to gauze are able to weave into the body's nooks and crannies to hold virtually any dressing in every conceivable location.

A medical professional should always be present or consulted before the application of a bandage and dressing. This will help ensure the procedure is done accurately and effectively. It will also maximize the potential for a full patient recovery.


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Post 4

Another difference between a bandage and a dressing is that dressing is usually breathable, so it allows air circulation whereas a bandage doesn't. There are different type of bandages out there but they're not all suited to wear on top of a cut or injury. Some bandages compress the area, which is good to reduce bleeding, but not good for healing in the long term. So if a bandage is used on top of dressing, it should not be tight and it's a good idea to check on the wound once in a while.

Post 3

I've always considered gauze as dressing. Although it can be used as both a dressing and a bandage, it's not the best bandage out there because it's not flexible nor very durable. I use gauze dressing on a wound because it absorbs liquids very well. But as a bandage, I use tubular bandage or stretch bandage to keep the dressing clean.

The good part about stretch bandage is that it leaves some room for swelling and it's easy to move. The only downside to this type of bandage is that since it's not sterile, it should not come in contact with the wound or it might lead to an infection.

Post 2

I agree that the difference between bandage and dressing can be vague sometimes. There are some new bandages now that are also sterile and absorbent and can be placed directly over a wound. In the past, dressing and bandage were always separately applied to a wound. But that's not always the case anymore.

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