When you think of healthcare supplies, which comes to mind first: A stethoscope to hear a heartbeat? A syringe to give a needed shot? Perhaps even the "Ahhhhhh, open wide" tongue depressor…
But what about medical adhesive tape? While it might not be your first thought, medical tape is a versatile tool vital to medical care.
As a flexible material converting business with medical manufacturing capabilities, other companies often approach us about building wound care solutions. At Strouse, we know businesses can better prepare themselves for a painless converting process through further design and material planning.
To help you better understand your wound care options, we will talk about the types of medical adhesive tape and factors to keep in mind throughout the process.
What is Medical Adhesive Tape?
Medical adhesive tape, or surgical tape, is used to attach bandages, gauze, and other dressings to the skin around wounds.
Most adhesive tapes are pressure-sensitive tape; i.e., tape that sticks and stays in place with firm pressure. There's no need for heat activation or a solvent. Medical adhesive tape can be made from various materials, but most are breathable for comfort and ease of use.
Types of Medical Adhesive Tape
In the medical field, different types of adhesive tape are used for different things. Some have softer components, such as cotton, while others are more elastic to support flexibility. Here are some of the most common types of medical adhesive tape and how they differ.
1. MEDICAL ADHESIVE TAPE FOR URGENT NEEDS
Micropore Paper Tape — Commonly used to secure bandages and dressings to the skin without leaving a sticky residue, micropore paper tape is hypoallergenic and can be used long-term without fear of skin irritation. Its adhesive sticks to the skin, underlying tape, or directly to dressing materials. Tiny holes, or micropores, in the tape make it breathable (speeding up healing) and easy to tear (ideal for emergencies).
Transpore Polyethylene Tape — This hypoallergenic, translucent tape sticks to the patient without sticking to surgical gloves or other surgical tools. It adheres well to wet surfaces — such as bleeding or sweating patients — so this powerful tape is often used to secure tubing or dressings. Transpore tape is breathable, although inflexible, and made from a non-stretch film.
Versatile, reliable, and easy to tear. That sums up what most medical situations require. Medical professionals on the go, including EMS and ambulance workers, regularly use transpore polyethylene tape because it's efficient, durable, and sticks well to any surface, including those covered in hair, water, or blood. It's also waterproof, allowing patients to keep it on in the shower or swimming.
Transpore tape's breathable material allows adequate airflow for healing and allows sweat and other bodily fluids to pass through it. Because it's one of the stronger varieties, it can leave residue on the skin or irritate those with sensitive skin.
2. MEDICAL ADHESIVE TAPE FOR EVERYDAY USE
For not-so-high-pressure situations, micropore paper tape works well. It is gentle on the skin (leaving no sticky residue) and stays in place for several days without falling off, even though it's not one of the strongest adhesive tapes.
Micropore tape is breathable — promoting wound healing — and is easy to remove. Able to withstand some moisture and sweat, it's not waterproof, and it's not as flexible or mailable as other adhesive tapes.
3. MEDICAL ADHESIVE TAPE FOR ATHLETICS
Zinc Oxide Tape — Commonly used to prevent sports injuries, zinc oxide tape also helps protect wounds, accelerating healing, stabilizing injuries, and protecting athletes from soft tissue damage. Very durable, this tape works well in humid environments and tolerates high moisture levels (sweat). This tape, made from rayon or non-stretch cotton, remains intact for hours, allowing athletes to bend, twist, run, and push their physical limits.
Durable Cloth Tape — One of the most versatile and widely used types of medical adhesive tape, cloth tape is flexible and comfortable. It sticks best to the skin (not directly to a cloth dressing or bandage), doesn't leave a sticky residue when removed, tears in any direction, and is ideal for long-term use thanks to its breathability. Durable cloth tapes are also often used to secure splints.
When you’re searching for medical adhesive tape that's strong, durable, and flexible, zinc oxide tape (sports tape) is the answer. While regular adhesive tapes work best on flat areas of the body — forearm, shin, back — most athletic tapes are designed to conform to flexible, moving parts and stay put. This strong tape allows athletes to move easily without fear of injury or the tape falling off.
4. WATERPROOF MEDICAL ADHESIVE TAPE
Waterproof Skin Tape — Specifically designed for use in water, the waterproof adhesive tape does have limitations. The tape only works when applied to dry skin or if the tape itself is dry to start. Most waterproof tape is exceptionally flexible and mailable, conforming to the body and sticking to curved surfaces (between fingers and toes, on joints, etc.).
Waterproof adhesive tape isn't just for swimmers. One of its primary uses is protection against blisters and chafing skin. This tape sticks well to the skin but won't adhere to hair, so skin surfaces must be prepared.
This adhesive tape is also incredibly flexible, easily conforming between fingers and toes, under the armpit, and on the palm as it flexes and moves with the body. Despite its strength, waterproof tape can be torn by hand, making it perfect for fast-paced situations.
Choose the Right Medical Adhesive Tape Converter
Arming medical professionals with the most versatile medical adhesive tapes allows them to meet high-pressure situations with high-quality care. When choosing the right tapes, you need to assess their specific use and the required strength during care.
Proper assessment likely requires the guidance of a knowledgeable flexible material converter. Yet, just as not all tapes are created equal, the same can be said of converters. Some know the basics, and some thrive on exploring cutting-edge materials and technology. How can you tell the difference? And which do you need?
The first thing to assess is the environment where medical product conversion happens. Different impurities — dust/smoke, microorganisms, poor air quality, etc. — can cause defects in many medical products, including tape, so a controlled environment (clean manufacturing room or ISO 7-certified cleanroom) might be required.
When your converting partner is ISO cleanroom certified, you know they handle demanding pressure-sensitive wound care tape challenges, have engineers on staff, and follow best practices when converting the most accurate products.
SCOPE OF EXPERIENCE
Another criterion to use is the converter's industry connections. A converter that's 3M Medical Preferred has the right capabilities and processes to manufacture medical-grade adhesive solutions and helps you choose a medical adhesive tape that prevents product failure and ensures successful patient experiences.
Speaking of experience, it's not everything for a converter. However, experience indicates that one has expanded beyond simple tape converting to highly technical projects, such as medical device microfluidics. Handling fluids on the micro-and nanometer scale is another level of expertise that many converters can't touch.
Wound care is a multi-faceted process that can strongly benefit from reliable medical adhesive tapes. Yet, with so many types of medical adhesives, many businesses benefit from the guidance of a converter to help them produce custom components.
If you’re interested in pursuing a custom medical adhesive tape solution, consider reaching out to schedule a consultation.
Still have questions? You can learn more about the entire process from start to finish and other materials in our Learning Center.
Originally published: September 13, 2022