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How Does a Band-Aid Work?

By Josh Weber ; Updated July 27, 2017

Understanding Band-Aid Construction.

Regardless of size or end use Band-Aids consist of a blending of sterilized cotton gauze embedded onto flexible plastic or vinyl tape. A crinoline-like fabric is used to cover the exposed ends of the the tape to prevent the tape from sticking to itself prior to use. Over the years the manufacturers of Band-Aid products have improved both the tape and the sterilized gauze cotton padding to improve the performance of the Band-Aid. In the early years Band-Aids made use of cotton-based surgical tapes on which the gauze pad was embedded. These Band-Aids often failed to remain on the wound as contractions of the skin on which they were attached, human perspiration and muscular contractions would cause the tape to fail and fall away from the wound. Through extensive research and development and working with tape manufacturers Band-Aid manufacturers developed more flexible and more adhesive plastic, and later, vinyl tapes that not only remained in place overcoming these conditions, but offered the advantage of proving improved protection from dirt and contact bacteria. Band-Aid manufacturers also worked to improve the gauze pad itself. In he early production of Band-Aids readily available, off-the-shelf gauze was used to make Band-Aids. Depending of the size of the Band-Aid sterilized gauzes utilized plain-weave gauzes with 16-20 cotton threads per inch in both directions (horizontal and vertical). After years of development gauze pads were reconstructed to provide a tighter weave and a thicker pad, often woven in three-dimensional weave that was designed to provide improved wound protection, but still allow air circulation to the wound.

Understanding How Wounds Heal

While major wounds, such as stabbings or other deep internal penetrations of the body require surgery and stitches to repair the wound lesser cuts and scrapes can often repair themselves without the requirement for surgery or stitches. These wounds heal by themselves as blood fills the open wound and coagulates, forming a scab to cover the wound. As the scab thickens it seals off the exposed wound and gives it time to form new skin and over time, heal.

How a Band-Aid Works

Band-Aids play the same healing role as the scab that forms and protects the site of the wound. Prior to a scab forming a Band-Aid is placed over the open wound, protecting the area from contamination and bacterial infection. While it may come as a surprise one significant role of the Band-Aid is to prevent the scab from forming. Studies have found that wounds covered by thick scabs often break open as the scab dries and becomes cracked and brittle, often before healing has taken place. This allows contamination and bacterial infection to enter the wound. Band-Aids of today are designed to draw the blood away from the wound as the sterile absorbent tri-dimensional pad draws blood away from the wound and prevents a heavy scab from forming. The Band-Aid itself serves the function of the scab, protecting the wound and sealing out bacteria while allowing air circulation to the wound site. The newer tapes provide improved sealing around the wound site and the redesigned tri-dimensional sterile pads play a vital role in absorbing the excess blood while protecting the wound without sticking to the wound. Recent studies have shown that the use of Band-Aid protection provides the added advantage of healing faster and with less scarring than wounds on which scabs have been allowed to form.

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