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There are many different types of adhesive bandages available to treat a number of different injuries and cuts, but one of the most common ways to divide them is by size. The standard and perhaps most traditional bandage measures about 3 inches (7.6 cm) by 1 inch (2.5 cm), and is made up of a thin rectangle of gauze fixed to an easily removable strip. Smaller and larger variations of this basic style are usually available, and different shapes can also be found with some regularity. Bandages can be round or oval-shaped, as to cover things like pimples or blisters, for instance, or they can be winged, as might be useful on an elbow or knee. Bandages can also be categorized based on whether they contain medication or not, as well as by what they’re made of. Latex is often the mot common material, but plastic, cotton, and other flexible fabric strips are also available in many places. Patterns, designs, and colors are also common, particularly in bandages geared to children.
Basic Concept and Brief History
Adhesive bandages were invented in the 1920s as a way to protect small cuts and scrapes without the bulk and inconvenience of a full-sized bandage. The overall design has not changed very much since then, but individual product features have evolved to provide specific treatment for smaller or larger injuries, injuries on joints or limbs, and even specialized burn care. There are even certain types of adhesive bandages that are saturated with medicated ointment in order to prevent infection and speed healing.
Treating Minor Cuts and Scrapes
The most familiar form of adhesive normally comes as an individually packaged strip. By far the most versatile style, this type of bandage is used for everyday minor injuries, and is most effective for small, shallow cuts and abrasions in places where the bandage can lay flat. When wrapped around knuckles, which are bent many times throughout the day, the bandage tends to wrinkle and the adhesive may fail; as a result, some manufactures also make a butterfly-shaped bandage designed especially for flexing joints. Newer rectangular designs also feature tapered ends to allow for finger-wrapping as well.
In some situations, a standard adhesive may be too large or obtrusive. For tiny wounds like a hangnail or a pimple, miniature bandages are often a compelling choice. These are normally available in 1 1/2 inch (3.81 cm) by 1/4 inch (1.27 cm) strips. Miniature bandages frequently also come in a 1-inch (2.54 cm) round, which can be good for wounds located in awkward places where there may not be room for a rectangular strip.
Covering Larger Wounds
Adhesive bandages are also available in larger sizes, up to 6 inches (15.4 cm) in many cases, for wounds that cover more surface area. Commonly used for abrasions, these bandages are mostly absorbent pad with a small margin of adhesive around the edge. The thicker pad allows for more blood absorbency, and the square shape effectively covers a larger area than a rectangular bandage of the same size. Although not recommended for wrapping around flex joints, a larger square bandage will normally cover an entire adult kneecap or shoulder, and will usually stay put as long as strenuous movement is avoided.
Most bandage companies also offer medicated bandages in various shapes and sizes. The pads of these bandages are usually treated with antibiotic or antibacterial ointment to prevent infection and speed healing. Some of the more advanced bandages have thin strips of silver nitrate woven throughout the pad to help stop excessive bleeding.
There are even adhesives made specifically to treat burns. These large, normally clear plastic bandages are filled with a medicated gel that helps cushion and cool the burn while it heals.
Types of Material Used
Adhesive bandages are commonly made of latex, although the rise in latex allergy awareness is moving the industry to develop alternatives. Companies have developed proprietary latex-free plastics, and fabric bandages are popular. Major adhesive bandage manufacturers offer most shapes and sizes in different plastics that are waterproof, breathable, sheer, or even see-through. A large shift in the bandage industry is toward a thin neoprene, which combines all of the advantages of the specialty plastics into one bandage.
Specialty colors or designs are also available in many places. Some are fanciful, often featuring popular characters or bright graphics that are primarily designed to be attractive to children. Others are designed to be functional. In the food service industry, for instance, workers in many places are required to wear special blue bandages if they have a cut or scrape. Not only are these bandages quickly identifiable to managers and others, they are also plainly visible if they fall off into food, which can cause serious contamination.