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Medical Adhesive Tape: Types and Best Practices for Wound Care

Posted by Sue Chambers Dec 17, 2019 7:41:03 AM

Certain supplies are synonymous with healthcare. A stethoscope, tongue depressor, and otoscope are commonly found in a doctor's toolbox. 

But what about medical adhesive tape? You may not realize it, but this useful tool is versatile in the medical field. Not only that, but there are countless varieties to choose from.

Here we'll examine the many different types of medical adhesive tape and how it's used in wound care.

Grab your lab coat and let's get into it!

What is Medical Adhesive Tape?

This isn't your father's duct tape – or masking tape or scotch tape. Medical adhesive tape, also known as surgical tape, is used to attach bandages, gauze, and other dressings to wounds.

Materials and uses may differ, but many adhesive tapes are pressure-sensitive. This means the tape will stick to the desired area without the need for heat activation or the use of a solvent. With firm pressure, the tape will stick and stay in place.

Medical adhesive tape can also be made from a variety of materials, but many are breathable for comfort and ease of use.

The Types of Medical Adhesive Tape

You might think that all medical adhesive tape is the same. Not so fast.

In the medical field, different types of adhesive tape are used for different things. Some are made of softer materials such as cotton, where others are more elastic to support flexibility.

Let's take a look at some of the most common types of medical adhesive tape and how they differ.

Micropore Paper Tape

Micropore paper tape is commonly used by medical professionals to secure bandages and dressings. The adhesive is hypoallergenic and adheres firmly to the skin without leaving a sticky residue. Micropore tape can be used long-term, without fear of skin irritation. 

The adhesive in this type of medical adhesive tape is designed to stick to the skin, underlying tape, or directly to dressing materials. It's also breathable, thanks to tiny holes (or micropores) in the tape. This allows air to circulate, speeding up the healing process. 

Micropore tape is usually white or tan in color. Although it isn't very flexible or elastic, micropore tape is still widely used in the medical field. Thanks to its thin fabrication, this medical tape is also easy to tear, making it ideal for emergency situations.

Transpore Polyethylene Tape

Similar to micropore tape, transpore polyethylene tape is a hypoallergenic surgical tape. Instead of being tan or white, transpore tape is translucent but is still easy to tear both vertically and horizontally.

A nice feature of transpore tape is that medical professionals can use it while wearing gloves. The tape sticks to the patient without sticking to gloves or other surgical tools.

Another notable feature is that while the tape itself needs to be dry for use, it will stick to any surface. That means healthcare professionals can apply transpore tape to patients who are wet, bleeding, or sweating without an issue.

The most common use for this type of medical adhesive tape is to secure tubing or dressings that require a stronger adhesive. Like micropore tape, transpore tape is breathable, allowing moisture to evaporate away from the skin.

Transpore polyethylene tape isn't flexible since it's made from a non-stretch film, but is hailed as one of the strongest medical adhesive tapes for the skin. 

Zinc Oxide Tape

Zinc Oxide tape is more commonly referred to as sports tape and used to prevent sports injuries. Zinc Oxide tape can also help protect wounds, accelerate the healing process of cuts, stabilize injuries, and protect athletes from soft tissue damage.

Zinc Oxide tape's durability makes it perfect for athletes. Zinc Oxide works well in humid environments and tolerates high levels of moisture (sweat). The tape remains intact for hours, allowing athletes to bend, twist, run, and push their physical limits without worry. 

Most Zinc Oxide tape is made from rayon or non-stretch cotton. 

Waterproof Tape

Although some of the medical adhesive tapes on this list are naturally waterproof, certain tapes are specifically designed for use in water. But waterproof adhesive tape isn't without limitations.

The tape will only work if it's applied to dry skin or if the tape itself is dry to start. You can't apply wet waterproof tape to dry or wet skin. The good news is after the tape dries out, it often becomes sticky again.

One notable feature of most waterproof tape is that it's extremely flexible and mailable. If you want a medical adhesive tape that conforms to the body and sticks to curved surfaces (between the fingers, toes, joints, etc.), this is your top choice.

Durable Cloth Tape

Durable cloth tape is one of the most versatile and widely-used types of medical adhesive tape. Cloth tape is flexible and comfortable to use.

It sticks best to the skin but may not be the best choice if you're sticking the tape directly to a cloth dressing or bandage. As durable as this tape is, it doesn't leave a sticky residue once removed. 

Durable cloth tape is easy to tear in any direction and is ideal for long-term use thanks to its breathability. Given its name, this tape is durable and strong. Many professionals use this type of adhesive to secure splints. 

Medical Adhesive Tape and Wound Care

Now that you know the types of medical adhesive tapes to choose from, let's discuss how each one plays a role in proper wound care.

Best Tape for Medical Professionals on the Go

Need a medical adhesive tape that's versatile, easy to tear and reliable? There are a few types that fall under this category.

Transpore tape tops the list in the versatility department. It's efficient, durable, easy to tear, and sticks well to all skin types. It's the perfect medical adhesive tape for professionals on the go including EMS and ambulance workers.

Transpore tape sticks 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 while swimming.

The breathable material allows adequate airflow for healing and let's sweat and other bodily fluids pass through it. Because transpore tape is one of the stronger varieties, it can leave residue on the skin or cause irritation in those with sensitive skin.

Medical professionals in all fields can use transpore tape to quickly and efficiently treat a wound, burn, or other injuries. The tape is easily torn vertically and horizontally without the need for scissors.

Medical Adhesive Tape for Everyday Use

For less high-pressure situations, micropore paper tape works well. Not only is it gentle on the skin, but it can stay in place for several days without falling off but it doesn't leave a sticky residue on the skin.

Because micropore tape is easy to remove, it's not one of the strongest adhesive tapes. Micropore tape is breathable, which promotes wound healing over time.

While this type of medical adhesive tape can withstand some moisture and sweat, it's not waterproof. It's also not as flexible or mailable as other adhesive tapes. If you're looking for an affordable option that does the job, micropore tape is a good choice. 

Medical Tape for Athletes

When it comes to medical adhesive tape that is strong, durable, and flexible, sports tape is the answer. 

Most athletic tapes are designed to conform to the skin and stay put. Regular adhesive tapes work best on flat areas of the body like the forearm, shin, or back. Sports tape is flexible and conforms to moving parts like the elbow or knee.

This strong tape allows athletes to move with ease, without fear of injury or the tape falling off.

Waterproof Tape

Waterproof tape isn't just for swimmers. In fact, one of its main uses is protection against blisters and chafing skin. That's because waterproof adhesive tape sticks surprisingly well to the skin but won't adhere to hair, so skin surfaces must be prepared beforehand.

This adhesive tape is also incredibly flexible. It easily conforms to the body including in between fingers and toes, under the armpit, and the palm of the hand as it flexes and moves with the body. 

Despite its strength, waterproof tape can be torn using your fingers, making it perfect for fast-paced situations.

Choose the Right Medical Adhesive Tape for the Job

Not all tape is created equal. Assessing the specific use and desired strength are two of the most important deciding factors when choosing the right medical adhesive tape. 

Arming medical professionals with the most versatile medical tape allows them to provide quality wound and patient care in high-stress situations. 

Contact us for more information about the many adhesive tapes we offer or to request a sample of one of our many products.

Sue Chambers

Written by Sue Chambers

President and CEO of Strouse