The Complete Guide to Bandage Tape

Dietrich Easter

The Complete Guide to Bandage Tape

bandage tape

In the medical field, the different types of bandage tape are an important point to consider. If you're curious to learn about the hidden power of medical tape, stick around.


Bandage tape comes in several types, including plastic tape, cloth tape, self-adhering bandage tape, and even Tegaderms. Medical professionals use tape for everything from securing airway tubes to holding bandages to securing splints.


In the sections below, we'll cover several types of bandage tape, also known as medical tape. We'll also dig into their uses and examine their hazards (tape can be dangerous).


At the end of the article, we'll also talk about some tips and tricks to using bandage tape.

The Different Types of Medical Tape

There are many types of medical tape, and each serves a purpose. This seemingly small thing (tape) can create some big issues if it's used improperly. After we get into the different types of medical tape, we'll talk about the dangers of using the wrong kind.


Here are the main types of bandage tape:


1. Simple plastic medical tape

2. High strength medical tape (combat tape)

3. Cloth tape

4. Self-adhering bandaging tape

5. Duct tape

6. Tegaderm (acts like tape and worth mentioning).


Note: Throughout this article, we will use the terms medical tape and bandage tape interchangeably. However, some types of tape may be used exclusively for bandaging.

Simple Plastic Medical Tape

This simple plastic tape is usually about a half-inch thick. This is some of the lightest medical tapes and it's good for securing low-tension bandages.


Many medics use this tape with a Tegaderm to secure their IVs. This plastic tape is nice as it's light, easy to tear, and it lets you see what's going on underneath. Why would you need to see what's under the tape? This is a nice feature when you're trying to monitor bruising or leakage around an IV site or wound.


However, this tape is notorious for unsticking. It's important to ensure the patients' skin is relatively clean before using it.

Note: some people say they are allergic to plastic tape - even if it isn't latex. So, it's wise to ask the person if they've had any reactions to tape.

High Strength Bandage Tape (Combat tape)

This tape is much more durable than plastic tape, and it's made of natural rubber. A common brand is Gecko Grip Tape. This stuff is easy to tear, and you can use it for more serious bandaging applications.


Sometimes, you'll hear this called combat tape, as it's prevalent in the military. You can use this tape for just about anything, so it's nice to throw a roll in your first aid kit.


Now let's talk about the crowned jewel of medical tape.

Cloth Medical Tape Cloth medical tape is common because it's versatile. Everyone has their opinion on tape: some people love one type of tape, while others hate it. That said, cloth medical tape is like the Ronald Reagan of bandage tape - it may not be your favorite, but you can't hate it.


You can get cloth medical tape in many sizes, which is another nod to its popularity and versatility. Some patients state that they can only have cloth medical tape, as they aren't as sensitive to it. I don't study contact dermatitis resulting from medical tape for a living, so I can't call any bluffs, but that's what they say.


Now that I think about it, it was premature to declare cloth tape the monarch of medical tapes. The next type of tape probably isn't the most loved, but it definitely has the strongest fanbase.

Self-Adhering Bandage Tape Wrap

You could call this type of wrap "magic tape" because it makes EMTs ' eyes light up like a child who has just seen Santa Claus.

Self-adhering bandage wrap sticks to itself as you wrap it, though it has no sticky side. Admittedly, it's cool. It works well for circumferential wrapping. Since it's also elastic, it has some flex that prevents it from becoming uncomfortable.


I'll be honest; this tape has vexed me. Part of the magic is finding where the tape starts. I've spun this type of tape around in my fingers for weeks trying to find the start, only to hand it off to someone more committed.


If you do find the start, it's great stuff. Personally, I think this tape should ship from the warehouse with a little satellite GPS that's programmed to lead us to the start. Jokes aside, it's a useful product. You'll be fine as long as you spend some time getting it started before use.


Now let's discuss a tape that's familiar to everyone.

Duct Tape for Medical Use

Yes, this isn't traditional bandage tape, but duct tape is often used in the medical field. So, I thought we'd better mention it and explain its role.


Duct tape is often used to help secure a patient's head to backboards (those large devices used for extricating trauma patients). However, this stuff is strong enough to completely replace backboard straps if needed (we've all seen the video of people being duct-taped to a wall).


Also, you can safely use duct tape to secure splints. If you're building a rescue kit, it's some great stuff. We all know: duct tape can fix anything.


The Tegaderm works like another layer of skin. Most often, it's used to secure IVs. However, you can use the Tegaderm for all sorts of things if you get creative. It does a good job of keeping dirt from encroaching on the edges of a wound.


Alright, let's talk about the dangers of tape.

Hazards of Improperly Using Bandage Tape

Medical tape requires respect. If you don’t respect it, it could come back to bite.


Here are some adverse reactions to improperly using medical tape:


1. Reactions

2. Contamination

3. Circulation

4. Skin Tear


Let's take a closer look.


Some people are allergic to tape, especially latex tapes (though these are much less common these days). Just be sure to ask people if they're okay with you using the tape; they'll know if they've had a reaction.


Can people have anaphylactic reactions from medical tape? I've not seen this personally. Usually, it’s just a local reaction. With that said, it’s better to be safe. Just be sure to ask the person before using a specific type of bandage tape.


If you're taping near an open wound, do your best to keep the tape clean. If possible, use cleaner tape near the wound, like a Tegaderm. Try to keep regular bandage tape away from an open wound.


Also, realize that the edges of tape will attract dirt and dust, so you want to make sure you get good adherence the first time around. Make sure you're taping on a clean, dry surface.

Circulation If you must circumferentially wrap, make sure you don't wrap too tight. You can create pain and injury. If you must wrap circumferentially, try to use elastic tape (cue the self-adhering tape!) – but be careful! Even this type of tape can cause damage when it’s too tight.


Now, let's talk about one more thing.

Fragile Skin and Pain

If you're not careful, tape can tear fragile skin. This usually occurs when someone is trying to pull the tape off an older adult. It's best to pull the tape off slowly and, if needed, use some water to begin loosening it.


Also, if you're using medical tape, you probably aren't in a beauty salon - you're not trying to wax people's arms. If you must tape near or around the hair, use a medical razor to remove the hair before taping. This will make the tape adhere better and prevent pain on removal!


Now, let's cover a few tricks to make your time with bandage tape more pleasant.

Tips and Tricks to Using Bandage Tape

Let’s talk about a few tips and tricks for using bandage tape more effectively.


Here are some tips and tricks:


1. Create a pull tab. Remember the struggle I talked about with self-adhering tape? This can happen will all tapes, including cloth tape. Do yourself a favor and fold over the end of the tape, creating an easily grasped pull tab. Wearing medical gloves makes it even harder to start a roll of tape. Prepare!

2. Split the tape down the middle. If you want to create a nice stabilizing wrap, take your piece of tape and tear it down the middle. Now, you can easily wrap it on two sides of an object or around an ET tube.

3. Keep it on a carabiner. Get one of those carabiners and slap your tape in there. Then, you can secure this to a loop in your pants. This is a nice trick for medical personnel.


We could fill a book on information about bandage tape, but we'd better stop here. Let's cover our key takeaway.

Last Thoughts on Bandage Tape

Bandage tape has a ton of uses. Learning the different types ensures you have the best chance at avoiding sticky situations. What are your thoughts on bandage tape? Hopefully, this article took a somewhat boring topic and gave it some life.

Also, take some time to read our article on trauma shears.