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What is a Butterfly Bandage?

Diane Goettel
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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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.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Diane Goettel
By Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount Vernon, New York with her husband, Noah. They are the proud parents of a Doberman Pinscher named Spoon. Specialties: book editing, book marketing, book publishing, freelance writing, magazine publishing, magazine writing, copywriting,"
Discussion Comments
By serenesurface — On May 17, 2014

Sometimes, butterfly bandages are called "skin closures." They're really the same thing, just the shape of the bandage and the material used to make it may vary.

I agree that a strong hold is very important for a butterfly bandage, in addition to it being sterile. Some people are afraid of using strong hold bandages fearing that it will be very painful to remove. But holding the bandage under warm water or applying a little bit of rubbing alcohol on the edges of the bandage will make removal easy and painless.

By burcinc — On May 16, 2014

@turquoise-- Butterfly bandages are great when they work well. Some do not have a strong grip which means that the bandage does not do its job to keep the cut together. That's why it's better to pay a little extra and get the good quality ones.

By turquoise — On May 15, 2014

I didn't even know what a butterfly bandage was until recently. I work at a restaurant on the weekends and cut my finger while cutting vegetables with a huge knife. It was a very deep cut and it was bleeding a lot. My boss took me to the emergency room. They cleaned the cut and said that stitches are not required. Instead of stitches, they put a butterfly bandage over the cut to keep it together and gave me some extra in case I need to replace it at home.

I hadn't seen a butterfly bandage before but I think it's really cool. It keeps the sides of a deep cut together so that the skin attaches and the cut heals quickly. It's sort of like stitches, but without the pain!

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount...
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