Medically Approved

The best bandages for every body part

5 minute read
Father putting bandages on his child

Summer is prime time for cuts and scrapes. Here’s a roundup of the bandages you’ll need for injured knees, elbows, fingers and more. 

Erin Boyle

By Erin Boyle

Summer brings hot weather and lots of time outdoors. And that means it’s prime season for warm-weather injuries, from stubbed toes to skinned knees.

When these little emergencies crop up, it helps to have a variety of bandages — in all shapes and sizes — on hand. Read on for doctor-approved advice on how to treat hurt knees, elbows and more.

The injury: Scraped knee

You’re out for your morning run and trip on an uneven sidewalk. You go down hard on your knee. Now it’s cut and bleeding.

What to do first: Wash your hands. Then elevate your knee and apply pressure to the cut with a sterile gauze pad. That should stop the bleeding, says Jordan Frey, MD. He’s a plastic surgeon in Buffalo, New York. (You can use a clean towel if you don’t have gauze.) Remove any dirt or debris with tweezers cleaned with alcohol. Rinse the wound with water, and carefully clean the skin around it with water and soap. Then apply a petrolatum barrier cream.

Best bandage: It depends on the size of the abrasion, says Dr. Frey. If the wound is the size of a quarter or smaller, use a flexible or extra-large adhesive bandage. Either kind will typically stay put when you walk and move your knee. If the cut is bigger, a gauze island dressing might work better. These gauze pads have an adhesive border around the edge. This forms a protective barrier over the wound.

Stock up on bandages, gauze and tape at the Optum Store — and have it delivered to your door.

The injury: Cut finger

You’re slicing a cucumber for a summer salad when the knife slips. Ouch — you cut your finger.

What to do first: Fingers tend to bleed a lot because they contain so many blood vessels, says Dr. Frey. Stopping the bleeding is key. Wrap a gauze bandage around your finger and apply gentle pressure. The bleeding should stop after about 10 minutes of pressure. If it doesn’t, go to urgent care for medical help.

Best bandage: If the cut is large, wrap a fresh gauze bandage around your finger. Then wrap that with self-adherent wrap (which sticks to itself). This is a great option for keeping dressing gauze on an injured finger. If the cut is small, wrap it with a regular adhesive bandage designed for fingers and knuckles. You’ll need to change the bandage often, since it will get wet when you wash your hands. Dr. Frey recommends that his patients change any bandages on their fingers twice a day, in the morning and before they go to bed.

The injury: Stubbed toe

Your teen is walking barefoot at the town pool and stubs her big toe.

What to do first: Gently clean the area with soap and water. Apply pressure to the end of the toe if there is any blood.

Best bandage: Treat a stubbed toe using the buddy tape technique, recommend Amelia Damse, DO, and Andrei Gherghina, DO. Dr. Damse and Dr. Gherghina are dermatologists at Oceans Dermatology in Boynton Beach, Florida. With this technique, the injured toe gets taped to the one next to it with first-aid tape. Make sure you put some gauze between the toes before taping them together to prevent skin irritation.

The injury: Scraped chin

Your preschooler scrapes his chin at the playground.

What to do first: Clean it with soap and water. Apply gentle pressure with a gauze pad to stop the bleeding. Then cover the wound with a thin layer of ointment. This is vital for facial cuts because it helps prevent scarring, says Dr. Damse.

Best bandage: If it’s a surface cut, an adhesive bandage may be fine to cover the wound, experts say. (Tip: A kid’s bandage with fun designs on it is a great choice for little ones. It might motivate your child to leave it in place.) For a mild cut that keeps opening up, you might need a butterfly bandage or Steri-Strip. These narrow bandages are designed to bring the edges of a split wound back together. If the cut is deep or won’t stop bleeding, head to urgent care. A doctor should assess whether your child needs stitches.

The injury: Banged-up elbow

You take a tumble off your bike and bang your elbow.

What to do first: Clean it with soap and water. Apply gentle pressure with a gauze pad to stop the bleeding.

Best bandage: Elbow bandages can be tough to keep in place because people move their arms so much. Place nonstick gauze over the wound and secure it with self-adherent wrap. Wrap it around the joint a bunch of times, then seal it with first-aid tape. “That’s the best thing to do,” Dr. Frey says. “Everything else falls off.”

The injury: Blister on foot

You’re wearing new sandals and get a painful blister on the back of your heel.

What to do first: If the blister is closed, don’t pop it. If it has opened up and there’s a skin flap, leave the skin in place. It will act as a “roof” that helps the skin underneath heal, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Best bandage: Cover the blister loosely with a small adhesive bandage. To relieve pressure, you can cut some padding into a donut shape and place it on top of the blister first. Then hold it in place with the bandage. Take care not to let the padding stick to the blister, though, as it will be painful to remove.

When to see a doctor for an injury

For all injuries, if the wound is very deep or if you can’t stop the bleeding, go to urgent care right away. You’ll also need to see a doctor if there’s any sign that the wound is infected, including:

  • Redness
  • Yellow pus
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Fevers
  • Night sweats

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Additional source
Blister prevention and treatment: American Academy of Dermatology (n.d.) “How to Prevent and Treat Blisters”