Physicians, nurses and other medical workers use medical adhesive tape to cover dressings, secure IV lines, oxygen tubing or splints. At home, keep a roll of medical adhesive tape in your first aid kit to secure dressings and pads. You can choose an all-purpose tape, though specialty tapes are designed for more specialized jobs.
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Paper medical tape tears easily, making it a quick choice for light dressings. Paper tape adheres lightly to the skin. This is a good choice for people with sensitive skin, such as small children and the elderly.
Plastic medical tapes may be perforated, allowing air to reach the wound and moisture to evaporate, or solid. Solid plastic tapes protect dressings from moisture. Plastic tapes are stronger than paper tape and can securely hold heavier dressings or tubing. Though some plastic tapes are perforated to tear easily, some need to be cut to size with scissors.
Fabric medical tapes, made of polyester, cotton, taffeta or a combination of fibers, are strong and flexible. They stretch to cover awkward areas such as over the biceps, which expand and contract with movement. This tape is strong enough to hold heavier tubing and thick dressings, or to bind together the halves of a plastic splint. You can cut fabric tape with scissors or tear it.
Foam medical tape is thick and cushioned. The strongest medical tape, it can hold heavy compression dressings. Foam tape is also very stretchy, so it's useful for keeping dressings in place in awkward areas such as the bend of a knee or elbow. You'll need sharp scissors to cut foam medical tape.