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I'll use the term Band-Aids, despite it being a brand name for adhesive bandages. I know they're not used solely by parents, but this question came to me because of parenting. My son is reaching an age where he's started to scrape up his knees and shins, so I'm sure he'll be wearing plenty of Band-Aids in the near future.

Do Band-Aids do anything more than protect the skin from debris or irritation? As in, do they decrease healing time or reduce scarring?

Are there negative side effects to using them? Growing up, my mother would often tell me not to wear a Band-Aid on cuts and scrapes for the whole day, because my wounds "needed oxygen". Is there any basis for this? These days, I assume that it's really about keeping the area dry, but I don't know if there's more to it.

Can the adhesive cause side effects, such as clogging pores or instigating skin allergies?

Is there any purpose to the different sizes and shapes other than giving coverage of the wound and contouring the body? For instance, butterfly bandages are designed to hold deeper cuts closed.

Are there times when it's definitely better to use a Band-Aid instead of just cleaning the area and keeping it dry and clean?

While this is many questions, what I'm really asking is:
What's everything I need to know about using Band-Aids in regard to common, minor childhood injuries?
When to use them, when not to use them, potential risks, potential benefits. Anything that clears up any common misperceptions (if there are any), would be excellent.

  • You should take a basic first aid course. Many different places offer them and the information is invaluable. If you don't want to take a course, there should be a good selection of books (and possibly videos) at your local library. Learning the basics about how to properly clean and caring for small cut's and wounds as well as minor burns is an important, and often looked over, skill that everyone should have. – scrappedcola May 3 '15 at 17:28
  • @scrappedcola I'm confident in my ability to administer first aid, but I agree all parents should study such skills. It's really only Band-Aids I was wondering about. When something like them become so ubiquitous, common misconceptions can spread far. – user11394 May 3 '15 at 17:54
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Do Band-Aids do anything more than protect the skin from debris [...]?

Since debris can carry bacteria into the wound than can cause it to become infected (or even more infected if already infected), I'd say that's already a pretty big feature of adhesive bandages.

Are there negative side effects to using them? Growing up, my mother would often tell me not to wear a Band-Aid on cuts and scrapes for the whole day, because my wounds "needed oxygen". Is there any basis for this?

No. In fact, the opposite is true. http://www.emaxhealth.com/5/2089.html

These days, I assume that it's really about keeping the area dry, but I don't know if there's more to it.

There's more to it. Dry is bad. See the link above. Adhesive bandages help prevent a scab from forming, allowing the wound to heal faster, and lowering the chances of permanent scarring.

Is there any purpose to the different sizes and shapes other than giving coverage of the wound and contouring the body? For instance, butterfly bandages are designed to hold deeper cuts closed.

I don't have a resource for this, but I doubt different shapes help much. If the wound is deep, stitches are a much better solution to ensure correct healing.

Are there times when it's definitely better to use a Band-Aid instead of just cleaning the area and keeping it dry and clean?

Yes. Always.

What's everything I need to know about using Band-Aids in regard to common, minor childhood injuries?

Apply antiseptic cleanser as quickly as possible to a fresh wound, and then an adhesive bandage on top. Reapply antiseptic cleaner when changing the bandage. Change the bandage around twice a day until the wound has healed.

And get professional assistance if the wound is simply too large or too deep to treat with confidence by yourself.

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  • 1
    Great overview. I was also told that scrapes "needed air" after one or two days of bandages -- helpful to know that's a myth! – Acire May 2 '15 at 15:13
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What's everything I need to know about using Band-Aids in regard to common, minor childhood injuries?

I have two boys, ages 12 and 19 1/2. Everything that I will write is based on my experience with them and with my own mishaps.

For a scraped knee, I recommend the expensive "second skin" type of bandage. It will puff up and start to look white. You can bath with this on. No scab ever forms. If it starts to peel away at the edge, trim with scissors. If so much of the bandage separates from the skin that part of the wound is exposed, then you'll need to take it off and put a new one on.

They come in a variety of sizes.

With this type of bandage, a scab never forms.

If the appearance starts to bother you after a few days, you can put some gauze on top to block your view.

If you don't want to do that, then when you're past the bandaid or bandage point, after a few days, put something greasy on the scab once or twice a day. It could be vaseline, Aquafor or antibiotic ointment.

For a cut that doesn't need stitches, use steri-strips. Put a bandage of some type on top if there's any danger of the wound getting dirty, or if the child feels less anxious with a bandage on top. For a big area, you'll want to use gauze and adhesive tape. I'm partial to paper tape.

My favorite bandaid is NexCare. Very flexible and comfortable.

Children often enjoy theme bandaids.

You'll want to have a variety of sizes on hand. You don't need a lot of the medium and large ones, though.

When I have a mishap that results in some puncture of the skin, as soon as I get a bandaid on it, the pain is lessened or goes away.

Keep an ice pack in the freezer -- this can reduce pain quickly. Keep a teething ring in the freezer too, for injuries to the mouth.

If you look carefully in the pharmacy, you will hopefully find a "no-sting" antiseptic squirt-type spray. If the child complains of stinging nevertheless, then, if there is no visible dirt or gravel needing to be removed, you should be okay dabbing a spot of antibiotic ointment on the pad part of the bandaid before you put it on (skipping the washing step).

If the child needs to bathe and there is a recent scrape or cut, use a waterproof bandaid. However, these really don't let the wound breathe, so don't use these around the clock. This is the type of bandage that is mostly transparent, with a paper strip around the edge that you peel off.

You will also want to have a magnifying glass, a needle, some rubbing alcohol to sterilize the needle, and some diagonal tweezers. For splinters. Pick a spool of thread in a color you never use, and store the needle poking into the top of the spool, in the medicine cabinet, so you don't have to go running all around the house collecting your materials.

Get a prescription for some Emla cream from the pediatrician to keep on hand. You'll need to apply this before you go poking around with the needle. It numbs the skin. You can also use this before a blood test.

Keep a couple of garden-variety bandaids in the car and in the bike bag. Also put some meat tenderizer in the car, for bee stings.

Final tip. If a child is upset about an injury and asks for a bandaid, nothing is gained by withholding it, even if you don't see any blood or anything.

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  • This contains a variety of helpful first aid ideas. Many of which I'm familiar with, some might warrant another question. Regardless, it's a nice summary of the different methods. – user11394 May 3 '15 at 6:07
  • Also, +1 again if I could for second skin bandages. I've never heard of them before, but they sound awesome. – user11394 May 3 '15 at 6:07

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