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A butterfly bandage is a kind of adhesive bandage that is used to hold wounds closed in order to either keep them as clean as possible until they can be treated and stitched closed by a medical professional or to keep them closed as they heal. Unlike adhesive bandages that are meant to cover superficial injuries such as blisters, scrapes, and minor burns and cuts, a butterfly bandage is often used for deep cuts that have penetrated several layers of skin. The reason that a butterfly bandage is named thusly is that it has two "wings" of adhesive material that attach to either side of a wound and a thinner center which bridges the wound.
Like many other kinds of adhesive bandages, the butterfly bandage comes in a number of sizes so that multiple kinds and sizes of wounds can be dressed using this type of bandage. The bandages can be purchased in boxes of each size or in boxes that include a mix of small, medium, and large sizes of the bandage. Bandages in a few different sizes are often kept in first aid kits along with other types of adhesive bandages, sterile cotton, sterile gauze, triple antibiotic ointment, hydrogen peroxide, and medicine for pain relief and the reduction of inflammation.
The "wings" of a butterfly bandage vary in their design according to the bandage manufacturer. Some are quite angular in shape while others are very rounded and look more like actual butterfly wings. The shape of the wings on a butterfly bandage may alter the effectiveness of the bandage. Very thin wings, for example, may not do as well to keep a wound closed as larger wings. Sometimes bandages with smaller wings are used so that they are less noticeable on areas such as the face.
While a butterfly bandage may be used to temporarily close deep wounds, it is important to have serious or even moderately serious wounds treated by a medical professional. A medical professional will be able to assess whether the wound can be kept closed using a butterfly bandage alone or if it will require stitches. Also, it is important to have a medical professional assess whether the wound has been contaminated and if the patient will require oral antibiotics or injections to fight off infection or another type of illness that may be the result of the wound.