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Bandages, Dressings, and Plasters – Which Should You Use?


Cuts, scrapes and grazes are among the most common injuries and can happen at any time. Bandages, dressings, and plasters are commonly used items in wound care, but understanding when and how to use each one is essential for effective healing. Here we are looking into the differences between them and the situations in which they should be used.


Bandages are flexible materials used to secure dressings, splints, or other medical devices. They are primarily used to hold dressings in place, provide support to injured limbs, or to apply pressure to control bleeding. Bandages come in various forms, including elastic, crepe, triangular, and cohesive.

Bandages are best suited for wounds that require pressure application or immobilisation, such as sprains, strains, and larger cuts. They help in reducing swelling, controlling bleeding, and stabilising injured limbs. However, bandages should not be applied too tightly to avoid restricting blood flow.


Dressings are materials applied directly to wounds to promote healing and prevent infection. They serve multiple purposes, such as absorbing wound exudate, maintaining a moist environment, and protecting the wound from external contaminants. Common types of dressings include gauze, non-adherent pads, hydrocolloids, and transparent films.

Dressings are ideal for various types of wounds, including cuts, abrasions, ulcers, and surgical incisions. They promote wound healing by absorbing excess moisture, facilitating granulation tissue formation, and protecting the wound from infection. Dressings should be changed regularly according to the wound’s condition and the healthcare provider’s instructions.


Plasters are the staples in everyone’s home first aid kit and are small adhesive strips with an absorbent pad in the centre. They are designed for minor cuts, scrapes, and burns, providing a protective barrier against dirt and bacteria. Plasters are available in various shapes and sizes to suit different wound types and locations.

Plasters are suitable for minor injuries that do not require extensive wound care, such as small cuts, blisters, and insect bites. They provide a protective covering that keeps the wound clean and prevents further irritation. Plasters should be changed daily or as needed to ensure proper healing.

Bear in mind that plasters may not adhere well to areas with frequent movement or flexion, such as joints. In such cases, consider using alternative methods to secure the dressing and protect the wound.

Difference Between Bandages, Dressings, and Plasters

While bandages, dressings, and plasters all serve the purpose of wound care, they differ in their composition, application methods, and specific uses. Bandages are typically used for securing dressings and providing support, while dressings are directly applied to wounds for healing and protection. Plasters are suitable for minor cuts and abrasions.

When selecting between bandages, dressings, and plasters, the type and severity of the wound, the location of the injury, the individual’s skin sensitivity, and any underlying medical conditions should all be considered. Proper wound assessment is essential to determine the most appropriate treatment option.

Proper Application Techniques

Regardless of the chosen option, proper application techniques are crucial for effective wound care. It’s essential to clean the wound area thoroughly, apply any necessary medications or ointments, and secure the dressing or plaster firmly but not too tightly. Regularly check the wound for signs of infection or complications.

One common mistake in wound care is applying bandages too tightly, which can restrict blood flow and impair healing. Additionally, using expired dressings or plasters, neglecting proper wound hygiene, or leaving a wound uncovered can increase the risk of infection and delay healing. It’s essential to follow healthcare provider recommendations and seek medical attention for severe or persistent wounds.

If you suspect a wound is infected, seek medical attention promptly. Signs of infection include increased pain, redness, swelling, warmth, or drainage of pus from the wound.

You can learn how to properly dress wounds (along with many other vital first aid skills) by undertaking a first aid course.

Bandages, dressings and plasters each have their place in the first aider’s arsenal and each option serves a specific purpose in promoting healing and preventing further complications. By choosing the right treatment option and following proper application techniques, a first aider can facilitate the healing process and minimise the risk of infection.
To learn more about our first aid courses, please get in touch.