First Aid Types of Bandages
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Virtual College advocate dialling the emergency services before attempting any form of first aid.
First Aid Types of Bandages
Bandages are an essential part of every first aid kit. They’re also amongst the most useful items for any first-aider, with potential applications in the majority of everyday accidents and injuries.
Bandages and dressings are only helpful when used properly though - many are designed for a single specific purpose, like holding heavy dressings against a wound or supporting a broken limb, and are not effective when used for other purposes as a result. Other bandages, like tubular bandages, can only be used on certain body parts as a result of their irregular shape, and some are made of non-absorbent materials which means that they mustn't be used on open wounds. This makes learning to recognize the different bandages in a first aid kit essential.
In this bandaging guide, we’re going to walk you through the different types of bandage that you’re likely to encounter, and provide you with a brief overview of the way in which you might use them.
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What are the Different Types of Bandage?
Roller bandages are the most common type of bandage. They’re normally made from a single continuous strip of lightweight and breathable cotton gauze, and are used for holding dressings against wounds.
You will also find thicker, crepe roller bandages in some first aid kits. These bandages are elasticated which means that they can be used to support joints or apply pressure to an open wound. In conjunction with a pad or dressing, a crepe roller bandage will allow you to control light to moderate bleeding, which makes them very useful in emergency situations.
To find a roller bandage, open your first aid kit and look for a tightly wrapped cylinder of white cotton gauze. In most cases, roller bandages are supplied in sterile plastic packets that provide details about the type of bandage, the density of the weave and the degree of elastication. If you’re using a roller bandage to hold a dressing against an open wound, you’ll need to start by applying a suitable pad/dressing to the affected area. You’ll then need to take the bandage - holding the head (rolled) end up - and wrap it slowly around the pad. Start at the bottom and work up, only add a few centimeters at a time and be sure to keep things tight otherwise you won’t be able to apply the pressure needed to support the dressing.
Take care to ensure that each wrap overlaps at least a 3rd of the previous wrap too, to ensure proper coverage. When you get to the top of the dressing, add a couple of extra turns, secure the bandage and cut it off.
If you’re using a roller bandage to apply pressure to a limb and/or support a joint, do the same but make sure that you have the patient flex/bend their arm a couple of times before applying, and, again, make sure that you’re wrapping tightly so that pressure is applied.
Triangular bandages are amongst the more versatile types of bandaging, found in most first aid kits. They are normally comprised of a single sheet of thick cotton or calico, and are primarily designed for constructing slings that:
- Support soft tissue injuries
- Immobilize broken bones
You can also use triangle bandages to create a makeshift tourniquet in emergency situations. If no roller bandages are available, you can also wrap one around a pad or dressing to apply pressure.
To locate a triangular bandage in your first aid kit, look for a larger, square packet containing a triangle of cloth. Some triangular bandages are also supplied with safety pins to aid with sling construction.
To use a triangular bandage to support or immobilize a limb, you’ll first need to work out what type of sling is appropriate.
For lower arm, elbow and hand injuries, you’ll want to choose between an arm sling and an elevation sling, depending on whether or not you need to restrict blood flow to the affected body part. For lower body injuries you’ll want to use your bandage as a broad-fold version of the roller bandage; wrapping it round and round the affected body part to fully immobilize it.
Once you’ve worked out the right kind of sling you’ll need, you can then start construction. Since the way in which slings are constructed varies significantly, we’d recommend familiarising yourself with a visual guide such as this.
Of all the types of bandaging mentioned in this guide, tubular bandages are perhaps the least versatile. These are elasticated tubes of thick gauze, generally supplied in multiple widths, and designed for use with a single body part. They provide compression, can be used to immobilize/support knee and elbow joints and, in some cases, hold a dressing against a limb.
To locate a tubular bandage in your first aid kit, just look for a long ring of bandage, or a roll of elasticated, circular bandage that’s designed to be cut to fit the required area.
To use a tubular bandage, simply slide it up slowly until it’s covering whatever body part you are trying to treat. If you are using a tubular bandage to support a joint that’s all you need to do, but if you are using a tubular bandage to hold a dressing tight against a limb, you’ll want to cut the dressing in place first, ask the patient to hold it in place, and then slowly slide the tubular bandage up until it covers the pad, taking care not to displace the dressing or contaminate the wound.
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