In Britain and many former colonies, the term “sticking plaster” is used to refer to an adhesive bandage. Some people also call it an Elastoplast, after a popular British brand. The regional slang term has become well known through numerous popular books from these nations, and many people recognize what it means from the context. In the United States and Canada, an adhesive bandage is better known as a Band-Aid, thanks to a well-advertised trademarked brand of bandage manufactured by Johnson and Johnson.
There are three primary components to a sticking plaster. The first is a layer of bandage tape for the outside. Underneath the tape, a small non-stick pad is designed to be oriented over an open wound or burn, and a sticky compound is spread onto the surrounding bandage tape so that the bandage will stick. Some manufacturers make bandage tape which strongly resembles plaster, and the plaster could also be said to be “plastered” over a wound to cover it.
The basic design of the sticking plaster was developed in the early twentieth century. It represented a sizable improvement over cumbersome gauze and bandage tape. It is also highly convenient, since it is ready for use, and the only thing a consumer needs to do is select the right size.
The type of bandage tape used varies widely, although the sticky material and non-stick pad are usually essentially the same on any model of sticking plaster. Some are made with fabric tape which bends and flexes with the wearer, but does not hold up well to water and the elements. Others use a layer of plastic with punched holes which allow it to breathe, or waterproof plastic for people working in wet conditions.
The size of a sticking plaster also varies, from quite small to very large. Different shapes may also be used. Small round sticking plasters, for example, are well suited to fingers and joints, while much larger square or rectangular bandages are used to cover bigger wounds. It is important to make sure that the nonstick pad covers the entire wound, as getting one stuck to a burn or cut can be painful.
As a general rule, sticking plasters are individually packaged, to address sanitation concerns. When one is required, the package is opened so that the plaster can be applied. An antibiotic ointment or cream may also be used, to prevent infection. Some brands even treat their non-stick pads with antibiotic, to save consumers the extra step.