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Medical Adhesive Tape | Surgical Tape

When choosing a medical tape, there are a lot of factors that come into play. Below are some things to consider to help you make an informed choice so that you can get the right outcome for your needs.

  1. Do you have any allergies to medical tape or adhesives?
  2. How are you using the tape?
  3. Is this for a human or 4-legged friend?
  4. Do you have sensitive skin?

Let's address these questions one at a time.

Do you have allergies to Medical Tapes or Adhesives?

This is important to note. There are a number of different allergens that one might be exposed to while using tape. Latex, the tape itself and the adhesive.

  • Latex-Free: latex is one of the easiest tape allergies to avoid as many tapes are latex free. For example, Dynarex features a latex free elastic bandage, paper tape and cloth tape. Andover features a latex free cohesive wrap and all 3M medical tapes are latex-free.
  • Allergies to the tape: this means that you are allergic to something in the material of the tape. To avoid this type of allergies, many manufacturers make tapes that are hypoallergenic. All 3M tapes are hypoallergenic and Medtronic (formerly known as Covidien) makes several brands of hypoallergenic tape as well such as the Curity, Microfoam and Tenderskin.
  • Allergies to adhesives: this means that you have an allergy to the adhesives on the tape instead of the tape itself. 3M Makes a silicone-based adhesive that is hypoallergenic as well. This adhesive is featured on the Kind Removal Tape.

Next, we will discuss the patient applications for medical tape and how to decide which style to choose.

Patient Applications

  • Securing a Secondary Dressing: the most common use of medical tape is to secure a secondary dressing. Choose a tape with a strong enough adhesion to properly secure the dressing, but nothing too strong for the skin's sensitivity level.
  • High Exudate Wound: if you have a wound with high exudate (a bunch of stuff coming out) make sure you select a tape with a some absorption properties. Foam tapes are mildly absorbent. Some transparent dressings (such as Tegederm Plus) also feature some absorption and act as a wound barrier as well.
  • While Swimming and Showering: choose a waterproof tape for swimming and showering. Waterproof tape comes in a variety of different styles, such as, zinc oxide, clear tape, and elastic tape.
  • Surgical: several medical tapes are classified as surgical tapes. They come in paper, cloth clear and foam tape styles. Some popular surgical tapes are:
    • Durapore Surgical Tape
    • Medipore Surgical Tape
    • Microfoam
    • Micropore
    • Dynarex Paper Tape
    • Dynarex Clear Tape
    • Caring Paper Tape
  • Sports: sports tapes come in a few styles -- wrap, kinesiology tape, and padding tape.
    • Wraps are designed to apply a light compression to a given area. Wrapping can reduce swelling and pain associated with injuries.
    • Kinesiology is a branch of sports medicine that requires the taping of muscle groups in a particular fashion. Kinesiology tape is ideal for physical therapy applications as well as preventing muscle fatigue in athletes.
    • Padding tape is an adhesive tape that is designed as a second layer of skin to protect from injuries. Use in areas that are prone to injury.

4-Legged Friends

Most tapes will stick to animal fur, which is less than ideal for dogs, horses, pegs, etc. However, there are some tapes that excel in this area. Non-adhesive tapes, also referred to as Cohesive wraps, do not stick to fur, arm hair or skin. Cohesive wraps only stick to themselves, so you would wrap it around itself to achieve an adhesion.

Sensitive Skin

For skin that is prone to breakdown, you want to find a tape that is breathable and gentle on the skin. Tegaderm is a breathable transparent dressing that is ideal for visibility as well as an anti-bacterial, ant-viral barrier. Tegaderm should be used on dry skin.

Paper tape is another option that is gentle for very sensitive skin. It can be used on moist skin, so it may be a better options for those with oily skin.

A third option is kind removal silicone tape. Kind removal tape is formulated for skin that is prone to tears, so it has a very gentle adhesive. Kind Removal tape will only adhere to clean, dry skin.

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Product Videos

Medical Tapes 5 Tips to Maximize Adhesion by 3M™ (3:58 Minutes)

Medical Tapes Removal Techniques by 3M™ (3:00 Minutes)

Video Transcription

Proper tape removal is critical in reducing the occurrence of traumatic skin injuries such as skin stripping. Removing tape at an angle increases tension on the epidermis resulting on additional risk of mechanical trauma. Instead of picking at the tape with your finger, you may want to start on the edge of the tape by pressing a small piece of tape on to the corner, press down, lift up slightly to start that edge. Stabilize the skin with one finger and remove the tape low and slow back over itself in the direction of hair growth. As the tape is removed continue to support the newly exposed skin. Supporting the skin close to the peel edge is particularly important for thin or easily distanceable skin. For tape that is strongly adhered to skin or hair consider using a medical grade adhesive remover or moisturizer to soften the adhesive. 3M tape adhesives are not readily dissolved in alcohol. Hair tends to grow medial to lateral, sometimes downward. In some situations, another technique that might work better for you is to catch the upper edge, pull it back forming a triangle. While supporting the skin apply a small amount of moisturizer on the leading edge of the tape. This is often enough to soften the adhesive and release it from the hair. Continue to remove the tape low and slow while gliding the lotion along the edge. If you wish to re-tape over the same area, either remove the moisturizer or adhesive remover or use the moisturizer that allows you to tape over it. Some creams that allow you re-tape may actually increase the adhesion of some tapes. It is important to use good techniques for subsequent tape removal. You may wish to protect areas that will be exposed repeated taping with an alcohol free barrier film such as Cavalon No Sting Barrier Film. Removing the tape will also remove the barrier film so the film should be reapplied and allow it to dry between tapings.

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