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What is Cotton Gauze?

By Misty Amber Brighton
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Cotton gauze is a type of bandage commonly found in first aid kits. It is usually used as a dressing for wounds, burns, and minor scrapes and cuts. Gauze may also be used to control minor bleeding — for example, small patches are sometimes placed on a patient's arm after his blood has been drawn.

This type of bandage is normally manufactured from cotton, although some rayon-polyester blends exist. The fabric is loosely woven, with a slight stretch to it. The looseness of the material allows the cotton gauze to breathe, and air to circulate through the bandage to the skin. The cotton is typically bright white in color, so that a medical professional can be certain he is applying a clean, sterile bandage to his patient.

Cotton gauze is often packaged in tightly-sealed wrapping. Ideally, this bandage material is applied by a person wearing latex gloves. It may be cut with a pair of sterile, medical scissors and held together with medical tape or a tiny, metal butterfly fastener. After use, any remaining cotton gauze should be rolled up, stored in its original packaging, and sealed tightly until needed again.

Gauze is most commonly available in a long, rolled strip that is then unrolled and cut as needed. These sheets may range from around six in (15.24 cm) to up to six ft (1.82 m) in length. The width of the rolls may be from one in (2.54 cm) to four in (10.16 cm).

Cotton gauze is also available as a dressing sponge. These are applied directly to the top of a wound, rather than wrapping bandaging around the body. They are somewhat thicker than rolled gauze because they must have a higher absorbency level. This type of gauze dressing may be as small as two by two square in (5.08 cm2), or as large as six by six in2 (15.24 cm2). Although these gauze bandages are thicker, they are developed not to stick to an open wound or burn.

Cotton gauze bandages can be used by anyone, regardless of his medical knowledge or training. Ideally, a household medicine cabinet should contain several different cotton gauze products, such as one small roll, one medium or large roll, and six to eight gauze pads or sponges in varying sizes. A kit should also include antibacterial cream for use under the gauze strip, medical tape, latex gloves, burn cream, and medical scissors. Having these items on hand can ensure family members can take care of minor injuries in a safe and timely manner, and prevent infections at the same time.

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Discussion Comments
By fify — On Jun 16, 2014

Cotton gauze is not meant for this, but it does work for a make-shift sling for the arm, at least temporarily. Unable to find anything else at home, I once used a long cotton cause wrapped around my arm and neck to keep my arm immobile for a few hours.

By stoneMason — On Jun 16, 2014

@ddljohn-- There are non-stick dressings out there. What you can do is place a piece of non-stick dressing over the wound and then cover with cotton gauze.

I agree with you that it's a bad idea to apply cotton gauze directly on a wound. It's possible to avoid sticking by applying some antibiotic ointment as well. But there are times when the area needs to be kept dry without ointment. So it's best to use a non-stick dressing in addition.

By ddljohn — On Jun 15, 2014

Cotton gauze is great for covering wounds because it absorbs any blood or discharge that may occur. But the downside is that the gauze sticks to the wound. So when it's time to change the dressing, it's very tricky, not to mention painful. It's possible to pull off a scab in the process and cause more bleeding. So I try not to use cotton gauze on wounds that are still wet with blood. I wait till it's dry and clean to use the gauze.

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