What Are the Different Types of Bandages Used in First Aid?

Bandages. You've seen them, and used them, but have you ever wondered about the depth of their variety and their critical role in first aid? These unsung heroes of emergency medical care are more than just strips of material. They're lifesavers, they're healers, they're protectors.

In this blog, we will dive deep into the world of bandages, shedding light on their many forms and uses, exploring their importance, and offering valuable insights to help you understand these essential tools better. Let's get started.


What Are Bandages?


first aid kit with different types of bandages
Credit: Envato Elements/ towfiqu98


First things first, what are bandages? At its most basic, a bandage is a piece of material used to support medical devices such as a dressing or splint, or on its own to provide support to the body. It can also restrict movement to aid in healing, prevent additional damage, and even apply pressure to control bleeding.

Bandages are typically made from cotton, which allows them to be flexible and absorbent, but they can also be made from synthetic materials for specific purposes. They come in various shapes and sizes, each designed to meet different medical needs.

The correct application of a bandage depends on its type and the nature of the injury. In general, it should be snug but not too tight, as this can interfere with circulation and cause further damage. For certain types of bandages, special techniques may be required for proper application.


What Are the Different Types of Bandages?


Now that you know what are bandages, here are the different types of bandages used in first aid:


1) Adhesive Bandage


number putting a bandaid on a patients arm
Credit: Envato Elements/ DragonImages


Adhesive bandages are found in almost every first aid kit and most homes around the world. These bandages are made up of a sticky part and a soft, often medicated, pad. The pad goes over the wound to soak up any fluid and protect the cut, while the sticky part holds it in place.

When we talk about adhesive bandages, we refer to a broad spectrum of products ranging from the standard 'plasters' in the UK or 'Band-Aids' in the U.S., to specialized variants such as fingertip or knuckle bandages. They're perfect for when you've had a small accident in the kitchen or a child has fallen over while playing.


2) Elastic Bandage (Compression Bandage)


man wrapping bandage around wrist
Credit: Envato Elements/ Rawpixel


Next in line are elastic bandages, also known as compression bandages. These stretchable bandages have a distinct role in first aid, providing support to soft tissue injuries, and sprained or strained limbs, reducing swelling, and aiding in managing chronic conditions like varicose veins. The elasticity woven into their fabric allows for a secure fit and the ability to adjust the pressure based on the injury's severity.

Elastic bandages or compression bandages are available in two distinct forms to cater to various body parts: long-stretch compression bandages and short-stretch compression bandages. When applying these bandages care must be taken to ensure it's snug but not too tight, as over-tightening can lead to circulation issues.


3) Triangular Bandage (Cravat Bandage)


man with arm in sling
Credit: Shutterstock


Renowned for their versatility, triangular bandages or cravat bandages are the Swiss Army Knife of first aid. These bandages are crafted from a large piece of cloth cut into a right-angled triangle and are ready to tackle multiple situations. They can be used as a sling for arm or shoulder injuries, to wrap around wounds, to secure dressings in place, or even as a tourniquet in extreme situations.

Being non-stretchable, they provide good immobilization, which is crucial in managing fractures or dislocations. Furthermore, their design allows them to be folded in several ways to fit different parts of the body, truly exemplifying their adaptability.


4) Gauze Bandage (Common Gauze Roller Bandage)


doctor with nurse wrapping bandage around child patient's wrist
Credit: Envato Elements/ DC_Studio


When it comes to managing larger wounds, gauze bandages also known as crepe bandages or roller bandages rise to the occasion. These bandages, often used in conjunction with other wound dressings, hold the dressings in place and offer an additional protective layer against external contaminants.

Gauze bandages are breathable, aiding in the healing process by allowing air to reach the wound. They come in various widths and lengths, with options for sterile and non-sterile variants, catering to a wide range of first aid needs.


5) Cohesive Compression Bandage


man wrapping bandage around ankle
Credit: Medisist Drugs and Surgicals


A relative newcomer in the bandage family is the cohesive compression bandage. These bandages, crafted from a mix of materials, have the unique ability to adhere to themselves but not to skin, hair, or clothes. This self-adhesive property makes them excellent for securing dressings, splints, or ice packs, and providing support without the stickiness of traditional tapes.

Due to their flexibility and ease of application, cohesive bandages are a popular choice in sports medicine, veterinary care, and even in lymphedema management. They can be cut to the desired length without fraying, making them a user-friendly option.


6) Tubular Bandage


man with tubular bandage on arm
Credit: MedicalExpo


Tube bandages or tubular bandages, as their name suggests, are tube-like structures designed to fit over limbs. They provide light compression, hold dressings in place, and can protect the skin under plaster casts or over long-term dressings. They are particularly handy when dealing with injuries on joints or other awkward areas, where regular bandages may not provide adequate coverage.

The application of tube bandages usually requires a unique applicator to ensure even pressure and a proper fit. They come in various sizes and are often color-coded to aid in size selection.


7) Conforming Bandages


man with conforming bandage on injured arm
Credit: Medstock


Conforming bandages are really good at doing what their name suggests - conforming or shaping themselves to the body part. They are light, stretchy, and can easily fit around any part of your body, even the hard-to-bandage areas like your elbows or knees. They are quite similar to compression bandages but use a piece of tape to hold them in place once they're wrapped around the wound or dressing.

While they're stretchy and airy, which helps with healing, they don't provide as much pressure or support as compression bandages. That's why you might often see conforming bandages used together with other types of bandages for complete care.


8) Specialized Bandages


nurse placing bandage on burnt arm
Credit: Envato Elements/ microgen


It's also worth noting the existence of specialized bandages designed for specific purposes. These include burn dressings, incorporated with soothing and healing substances; occlusive dressings, used for chest or abdominal wounds; and hemostatic bandages, infused with substances to accelerate clotting and control severe bleeding.




The world of bandages is vast, and each type is meticulously crafted to address different injuries and medical conditions. Being familiar with these bandages, understanding their uses, and knowing how to apply them can significantly impact the effectiveness of the first aid provided.

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