First Aid Basics: Essential Bandages

Stock up on these 5 and, whatever mishaps you encounter, you'll be covered.

By Kristin Appenbrink
Assortment of bandages Grant Cornett

Cloth

Best for: Sticking to scrapes on constantly moving joints, such as elbows and knees. The fabric’s softness and flexibility let you move and bend easily without losing the protective covering, says Caroline Dorsen, a family nurse-practitioner and a clinical instructor at the New York University College of Nursing, in New York City. 

 

Plastic

Best for: All-around versatility, including making a snug seal around most common wounds to keep out dirt and germs and prevent infection. However, skip the extra expense of plastic bandages pretreated with antibiotics. “Instead, dab on ointment from a tube; it’s better for healing cuts and more cost-effective,” says Mary Jean Schumann, chief programs officer for the American Nurses Association, in Silver Spring, Maryland.

 

Waterproof

Best for: Covering wounds on areas that are frequently immersed in water, thereby cutting down the number of bandages you go through in a day―no reapplying after dishes, hand washing, or showering. Unlike plastic versions, waterproof bandages don’t have holes in the adhesive strip covering the pad, so they keep moisture out.

 

Kids’

Best for: Soothing skinned knees on a scared child. Tiny adult bandages (the size suited to facial nicks) often aren’t big or sticky enough to stay put on a wriggly kid. “And the bright designs are a great distraction and a badge of courage,” says Schumann.

 

Moleskin

Best for: Breaking in new shoes. This soft, suede-like material, which comes in sheets that you trim to size, is the cushiony cousin of the typical bandage. Place a strip or a square around tender spots to prevent blisters. If you’re using moleskin for an existing blister, cut a hole for the blister to show through so the adhesive doesn’t pull at it; the surrounding sides will create a protective wall against further friction, says Dorsen.
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