What is Adhesive Dressing?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2019
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An adhesive dressing is a wound dressing which is coated in adhesive. The adhesive allows the dressing to stick directly to the area where it is applied, eliminating the need to use bandaging tape or similar materials to attach the dressing. Many drug stores carry adhesive dressing in a range of sizes and styles for different applications. It is also available through medical supply stores and medical catalogs, along with accessories such as bandaging scissors which can be useful for cutting dressings into a desired size and shape.

Medical dressings serve several functions. They protect a wound, reducing the risk that infectious agents will enter and colonize the area. They also collect exudate, the material which seeps from the wound, which can be important from a sanitary and aesthetic perspective. Dressings can also be used to keep a mound moist and to promote healing. There are a number of styles of dressing available, along with bandages to attach them, and in the case of the adhesive dressing, both dressing and bandage are combined in a single unit for efficiency.


The dressing can be made from a variety of materials including cotton and various synthetic fibers. Areas of the dressing without adhesive may be treated so that they will not stick to the wound, as this is a common concern. The treatment makes the dressing slippery, and is usually permeable so that liquids which seep from the wound can pass through it and be absorbed by the dressing. When the bandage needs to be removed, the treated areas should easily peel off without tearing.

Adhesives usually border the dressing and leave the middle free, depending on the design. Sometimes an adhesive dressing is designed as a strip of material, with the ends being adhesive and acting like tabs to hold it down. In other cases, the adhesive treatment may border all edges of the dressing so that it can be firmly attached all the way around the wound.

In addition to adhesives, dressings can also be treated with other materials for specific wounds, such as antibiotics to prevent infection. One thing to be careful of when applying an adhesive dressing is the location of the adhesive areas; it is generally wise to avoid introducing adhesive directly into the wound or around its margins, not least because it will make the dressing painful to remove. Sometimes it may be necessary to trim a dressing or to use a slightly larger size to avoid this problem.


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Post 2

@bythewell - As long as people don't try that at home thinking they are using a medical grade dressing.

Even if it is sterile when it comes off the cigarette package, the plastic probably doesn't stay that way in normal air, where just breathing on it can transmit germs.

I don't mean people should panic about infection, with a good immune system you are usually safe. But there is no substitute for a proper doctor or nurse when it comes to dressing a serious wound or burn.

Post 1

I read an interesting book on strange healing techniques recently.

One of the materials they mentioned as having made an effective dressing was cellophane wrapping. Apparently it is usually sterile, it won't stick to the wound (although you can apply adhesive so it will stick to the skin around the wound) and since it is clear it allows you or a doctor to see how the wound is doing without disrupting it.

They first started using it during one of the wars. They ran out of dressing material and had to use the clear plastic wrap from around cigarette boxes as there was no other adhesive wound dressing around that was sterile.

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