How to apply a butterfly bandage

How to apply a butterfly bandage

Do you have a butterfly bandage in your first aid kit?

A first aid kit should contain several kinds of bandages that can be used to treat various types of cuts.

One kind of bandage that you should have is a butterfly bandage. This can be used to treat a moderately serious injury.

Here are some guidelines on when and how to use a butterfly bandage.

Butterfly Bandage

Table of Contents

When to Use a Butterfly Bandage

A butterfly bandage can be used to seal a cut that is relatively small but deep.

It should be used on a wound that is straight, not jagged. A wound of that kind may gape open. A butterfly bandage can close the wound to promote healing and reduce the risk of scarring.

A butterfly bandage works best on a cut that is less than two inches in length.

If the cut is longer, more than one bandage can be used to close it.

So now that you know when and why you should have a butterfly bandage, you might be wondering.

How to Use a Butterfly Bandage

For many wounds it isn’t necessary to go to the emergency room for stitches.

Many of these wounds can easily be treated at home with a butterfly bandage. In fact, many people are surprised when the doctor in an ER applies a butterfly bandage instead of giving stitches.

It would be a good idea to learn how to use a butterfly bandage because when you go wilderness camping with your family, there aren’t any ERs close by!

How To Close A Gaping Wound

If you know how and when to use a butterfly bandage, you can skip the hassle (and costs!) of an ER visit.

There are four main ways to close a gaping wound.

  1. ​Skin glue:This is only suitable for small wounds which aren’t very deep. The glue holds the surface skin together so healing can occur below.
  2. Stitches: Also called sutures, this is the most common method of closing wounds. A sterile needle is used to stitch the skin together with suture material (often silk or nylon).
  3. Staples: Staples are used for deep wounds with straight edges. They are often used in areas where the skin isn’t very thick, such as scalp wounds. They are faster and easier to apply then traditional stitches.
  4. Adhesive Bandages (including butterfly bandages and SteriStrips): Instead of stitching the skin together, adhesive bandages hold the skin on both sides of the wound together.

When You Should Not Use Adhesive Bandages

They should NOT be used when:

  • The wound is jagged
  • The area of the wound is under tension (such as a wound on the knuckle or elbow since these wounds would be pulled each time you moved your fingers or arm)
  • The wound is very deep and goes beneath the skin into the fat or muscle tissue
  • The wound continues bleeding even after pressure has been applied
  • When you are worried about scarring
  • When the wound is from an animal bite
  • If you suspect that the wound is dirty or has something stuck in it

How to Apply a Butterfly Bandage

Step 1: Stop the blood flow

How to apply a butterfly bandage

The first thing to do when treating any wound is stop the blood flow by applying pressure, preferably with a clean compression pad/gauze.

Step 2: Clean and disinfect the wound

How to apply a butterfly bandage

Use clean water to flush any debris out of the wound.

Step 3: Apply the bandage accros the width of the cut

How to apply a butterfly bandage

Start on one side, apply the bandage, press the skin together to seal the cut, and then lightly apply the other side of the butterfly bandage to the skin on the other side of the cut. Avoid stretching the skin

Step 4: Apply additional bandages

The first butterfly bandage should be in the middle of the wound.

Even if it is a small wound, some still like to apply additional bandages. These ones they do at angles so they make an X over the first bandage.

This tactic helps grab more skin so the wound is held more securely.

Step 5: Apply antibiotic

This will help prevent infection and improve wound healing. You will need to reapply the antibiotic ointment daily.

Step 6: Cover the wound with gauze and adhesive (optional)

You can cover the wound with gauze and adhesive to keep the bandage in place and keep the wound clean.

What to Do after You Apply a Butterfly Bandage

If you treat a cut with a butterfly bandage, leave the bandage on until it peels off on its own.

It can take up to 10 to 14 days for the wound to heal.

When to See a Doctor

See a doctor if you experience redness around the site of the injury, red streaks, fever, drainage, swelling, tenderness in your groin or armpit, or an increase in pain or tenderness at the site of the injury.

How to apply a butterfly bandage

Butterfly bandages are adhesive bandages that can be used in place of sutures to close a laceration under some conditions. A laceration is a break in the skin caused by a sharp object or puncture of some kind. Butterfly bandages are easy to make and use.

Under normal conditions, treat a laceration at home only if it’s small, shallow, and the skin along the laceration matches up perfectly (and remains together when undisturbed). If possible, you should see the doctor for lacerations where:

  • The cut is gaping.
  • The edges can be pulled more than 1/8 inch apart with traction on nearby skin.
  • The cut is over a knuckle. the cut is on the face or genitals.
  • The cut might be contaminated with foreign material the cut was caused by human or animal teeth.
  • There is numbness, deep pain, or inability to move a part fully.

Butterfly bandages do not work well over moveable joints such as your knee, knuckle or elbow. These may require sutures because the movement of the joint will pull on the cut and cause it to gape. If you decide to treat a sharp laceration over a moving surface (such as knee, elbow, or knuckle), you need to provide protection against motion for the first few days.

If possible, deep lacerations need to be looked at by a doctor and probably sutured. Lacerations of the face that may cause disfigurement need to be looked at by a doctor and possible sutured.

How to make a butterfly bandage.How to apply a butterfly bandage

  • Cut off a piece of tape that is about 1 inch to 1 1/2 inches in length.
  • Fold the piece of tape in half so that the non-sticky sides are against one another.
  • Cut a small triangular notch on one side of the tape, beginning about a quarter of the way down from the folded edge and cut angling up toward—but not all the way to—the center of the folded edge.
  • Repeat on the other side, cutting a triangular notch that matches the one you just cut.
  • Unfold the tape so the sticky side is facing up.
  • The tape should look like it has a bow-tie shape in the middle.
  • Fold the center flaps across the middle of tape, sticky side in, so they overlap. This will prevent the adhesive from sitting directly on top of the wound.
  • Apply the bandage by sticking one end of the tape on one side of the wound, gently holding the edges of the wound together, pulling the tape across the wound, and sticking its other end in place.
  • The narrow middle of the tape should be positioned over the edges of the wound.
  • If the wound is long, make and apply as many butterfly bandages as needed along its length.

If you’re treating the cut at home, leave the butterflies on until they peel off on their own. Keep the wound covered with a dry dressing and keep it clean. Avoid bumping the area. It can take as long as 10 and 14 days before the cut is healed

Watch for:
See the doctor if there is redness around the wound, red streaks, swelling, drainage, fever, tender bumps in the groin or armpit upsteam from the wound, or an unexplained increase in pain or tenderness.

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How to apply a butterfly bandage

A butterfly bandage is a kind of adhesive bandage that is used to hold wounds closed in order to either keep them as clean as possible until they can be treated and stitched closed by a medical professional or to keep them closed as they heal. Unlike adhesive bandages that are meant to cover superficial injuries such as blisters, scrapes, and minor burns and cuts, a butterfly bandage is often used for deep cuts that have penetrated several layers of skin. The reason that a butterfly bandage is named thusly is that it has two “wings” of adhesive material that attach to either side of a wound and a thinner center which bridges the wound.

Like many other kinds of adhesive bandages, the butterfly bandage comes in a number of sizes so that multiple kinds and sizes of wounds can be dressed using this type of bandage. The bandages can be purchased in boxes of each size or in boxes that include a mix of small, medium, and large sizes of the bandage. Bandages in a few different sizes are often kept in first aid kits along with other types of adhesive bandages, sterile cotton, sterile gauze, triple antibiotic ointment, hydrogen peroxide, and medicine for pain relief and the reduction of inflammation.

The “wings” of a butterfly bandage vary in their design according to the bandage manufacturer. Some are quite angular in shape while others are very rounded and look more like actual butterfly wings. The shape of the wings on a butterfly bandage may alter the effectiveness of the bandage. Very thin wings, for example, may not do as well to keep a wound closed as larger wings. Sometimes bandages with smaller wings are used so that they are less noticeable on areas such as the face.

While a butterfly bandage may be used to temporarily close deep wounds, it is important to have serious or even moderately serious wounds treated by a medical professional. A medical professional will be able to assess whether the wound can be kept closed using a butterfly bandage alone or if it will require stitches. Also, it is important to have a medical professional assess whether the wound has been contaminated and if the patient will require oral antibiotics or injections to fight off infection or another type of illness that may be the result of the wound.

How to apply a butterfly bandage

Butterfly bandages are helpful when small cuts need closing. Air is allowed greater access to the cut, which promotes faster healing. There is also less likelihood of a scar developing because scabbing is reduced. Home first-aid kits should include assorted bandages and antiseptic for a quick response to emergencies. Butterfly bandages work well on knuckles, elbows and knees to keep the skin in place while it heals.

Things You’ll Need

  • Soap
  • Antiseptic
  • Clean cloth

    Clean the open wound under running cool water. Allow the water to run for several minutes to remove dirt or particles.

    Wash the skin around the cut with soap and water. Apply an antiseptic to the cut and then dry the skin surrounding the cut with a clean cloth.

    Place one end of the bandage alongside the length of the cut and press onto the skin to secure. The width of the butterfly bandage will cross over the length of the cut.

    Hold the skin together so the cut is closed. Secure the loose end of the bandage to the skin on the opposite side of the cut.

    Press both ends of the bandage securely to the skin.

    • Longer cuts may need more than one butterfly bandage to secure the wound.
    • Deep cuts should be monitored and may require medical attention and stitches.

    How to apply a butterfly bandage

    Butterfly bandages are helpful when small cuts need closing. Air is allowed greater access to the cut, which promotes faster healing. There is also less likelihood of a scar developing because scabbing is reduced. Home first-aid kits should include assorted bandages and antiseptic for a quick response to emergencies. Butterfly bandages work well on knuckles, elbows and knees to keep the skin in place while it heals.

    Things You’ll Need

    • Soap
    • Antiseptic
    • Clean cloth

      Clean the open wound under running cool water. Allow the water to run for several minutes to remove dirt or particles.

      Wash the skin around the cut with soap and water. Apply an antiseptic to the cut and then dry the skin surrounding the cut with a clean cloth.

      Place one end of the bandage alongside the length of the cut and press onto the skin to secure. The width of the butterfly bandage will cross over the length of the cut.

      Hold the skin together so the cut is closed. Secure the loose end of the bandage to the skin on the opposite side of the cut.

      Press both ends of the bandage securely to the skin.

      • Longer cuts may need more than one butterfly bandage to secure the wound.
      • Deep cuts should be monitored and may require medical attention and stitches.

      Confessions of a not so Molly Mormon

      Butterfly bandages, Superglue and Home Sutures

      Wounds come in a variety of shapes, sizes, depths etc. That will determine whether you use Butterfly bandages, super glue or home sutures.

      Butterfly bandages can be used to hold a wound together that does not necessarily need stitches, but that will heal better if held together. They are fairly inexpensive ($2.00 for 10 at most stores). Super glue is best when used on a part of the body that will not be stressed. For instance, the skin on your head is not pulled and stretched like the skin on your calf or your finger. Home Sutures are for deep wounds that are located in a stress zone (hands, arms, legs etc).

      When using butterfly bandages:

      *Clean wound thoroughly with hydrogen peroxide or warm soapy water.

      *Be sure to remove all debris.

      *Cayenne can be sprinkled into the wound to stop the pain, sterilize the wound and stop the bleeding.

      *Let the wound sit for a few minutes until the pain has subsided some.

      *Gently clean the outer edges of the wound and dry it completely. This should be done by blotting not wiping as wiping can pull the wound apart more.

      *Attach the butterfly bandages on one side of the wound. If you will need three bandages then attach all three on one side. Then sprinkle a very thin amount of Echinacea (fights infection) and Goldenseal (antibacterial and anti-inflammatory) on the opening of the wound.

      *Gently pull the butterfly bandages over to the opposite side of the wound and attach.The Echinacea and Goldenseal needs to be present only on the thinnest part of the butterfly bandage because you don’t want it to interfere with the adhesive on the bandage.

      *Do not allow the wound to get wet.

      *Check for discomfort, redness and heat coming from the wound.

      *Keep the bandages in place for approximately 7 days.

      Superglue is truley amazing! I was told purchasing the anti-fungal super glue for nails was the best option, but any superglue would work. My experience has told me that when treating my loved ones the cheap super runny super glue takes longer to dry and makes a bigger (especially in hair) mess. I have found it worth the investment to buy the $3 Anti-fungal superglue, it is still much less expensive than a trip to the ER. It is a common staple in our food storage

      When using Super glue:

      *A new unopened container of superglue. Throw it away after it is used.

      *4 – 6 pairs of medical latex gloves

      *Preferably 2 helpers

      *New unopened gauze squares (2”-4”) do not get the coated gauze you need it to be very absorbant

      *Large container of petroleum jelly

      *Pain killer, aspirin or Tylenol if necessary

      Go throw up in the bathroom and get that out of the way! Make sure that you have a helper who has also already thrown up, washed their hands and put on their gloves. If your helper is a child be sure to tell them that they absolutely can not squeeze the glue! Just trust me on that one! Wash your own hands and then put on a pair of medical latex gloves. Clean wound thoroughly with hydrogen peroxide or warm soapy water. Be sure to remove all debris. If the wound is a wound from a human mouth, ie bite or tooth imbedded in your Childs head, it is very prone to infection. It is important that the wound is thoroughly cleaned and then start the child on garlic, acidophilus and probiotics immediately after gluing.

      You need to push or pull the wound back together so that it matches up. You are doing this so that you can make a plan. If there is a spot that doesn’t match up because part of the flesh was lost then you may need to stitch it instead. If it looks like you can match it up fairly reasonably then let it lay open again. If it is very painful you may want to put some cayenne in the wound to help with the pain. I have never had to use cayenne for pain, although my kids never complain much either. For healing aid in the elderly or someone with a weakened immune system you can sprinkle a little Echinacea and Goldenseal in the wound.

      Now make sure your helper is standing close with the superglue ready and the gauze is nearby handy. Push or pull the wound together again. Hold the wound in place until you are completely done. Using the gauze gently blot dry the wound. Wait a few minutes and make sure that it is not leaking a lot of fluid. Blot it dry again if necessary.

      Then using the superglue start at the highest point of the wound and apply the super glue down the wound without touching the skin. If this is a head wound then there is hair that is bound to be in the way. Hold the hair as flat as you can when you are holding the wound together.

      DO NOT CUT THE HAIR If you cut the hair then it will push the superglue away as it grows back in.

      After you have applied the superglue carefully so as to not glue your glove to your childs head (yep, did that once) wait for the glue to dry. As the superglue dries it changes color from clear to a matte. When it is dry release your hold and it should stay together by itself. Do not bandage the glued wound. Do not allow the wound to get wet.

      Check for discomfort, redness and heat coming from the wound. After 10 days you can start to use the petroleum jelly to break down the superglue. Be patient!

      Do not pull the wound apart. I do not let my kids take their own superglue off. Just coat the superglue with petroleum jelly and work the glue off. When I used cheap super runny glue Kady had to walk around with a chunk of super glue in her hair for a very long time until her hair grew out. Throw away all supplies. Do not reuse. The risk of contamination increases if you use supplies that are not newly opened.

      Have you ever wondered how to do something that is not in your comfort or knowledge zone? Go check out www.wonderhowto.com for great how to videos, including suturing videos!

      Important for Suturing:

      *Clean wound thoroughly with hydrogen peroxide or warm soapy water.

      *Be sure to remove all debris.

      *Cayenne can be poured into the wound to stop the pain. (With my animals I give them vodka because they need something that will knock them out so they don’t bite me.) Begin as far away from the opening as the opening is deep. Grab some tissue on your way back up.

      *Close each stitch with 3 closures over – under – over or under -over – under.

      *Be sure to cut the ends of the sutures just short enough that they will not get tangled in the next suture or the wound and just long enough that they can be easily removed.

      *Coat the wound with a topical ointment. I would suggest a paste made of a triple antibiotic ointment and equal amounts Echinacea and Goldenseal.

      *Bandage loosely. Do not allow the wound to get wet. Check for discomfort, redness and heat coming

      *Emergency suture kits that include all of the necessary equipment run about $50. The kits that just have the needle, sutures and driver are about $7-$10 each.

      Contrary to your belief of this blog being a how-to guide to build the perfect turkey wrap for lunch or how to drop a beat, it is actually a how-to-guide on all the different types of bandaging techniques. We shadowed our SBBCollege Santa Maria Medical Assistants and watched how they learned the different types of wrapping forms.

      Medical assistant students were informed by the instructor on all the following roller bandage wraps listed below. They used roller bandages, which are long strips of material made of either elastic, cotton, or linen. These bandages are applied to provide support to a strain or sprain. It is used to dress the hurt ligament and applied firmly without cutting off circulation. Every wrap starts off with the roll of bandage being placed on the softer material side on the injured area.

      1. Circular Bandaging: Considered one of the more basic and easier types of bandaging for medical assistant students, this dressing is most commonly used on arms, legs, chest, or abdomen. While holding the roll in place, you unroll the bandage toward you while keeping the spacing equal as you cover higher parts of the injured limb. You continue to wrap around the injured area and use tape or a clip to hold the bandage together.

      How to apply a butterfly bandage

      2. Figure-of-Eight Bandaging: This bandaging technique involves the strips of bandage crossing each other to form the figure eight. The wraps will cross over at an “X” point and it is usually where the limb flexes. While wrapping the wrist, you loop around the wrist a couple times, then across the front of the hand between the inside of the thumb and pointer finger, then back around the front of your hand, around your wrist and repeat.

      How to apply a butterfly bandage

      3. Spiral Bandaging: This form of bandaging that our medical assistants learn is named spiral because of a V-shaped fold that forms when wrapping. You start with wrapping the affected area a couple of times, then you scale the bandage up about an inch, twist around and come back down. (Up an inch, then you twist down.) The distance of the wrap should be consistent, while wrapping the injured limb. Once complete, you will notice that the wrap has the V-shape.

      How to apply a butterfly bandage

      4. Reverse Spiral Bandage: Slightly more challenging than the Spiral Bandage wrap, this technique requires the bandage to be folded back on itself (Our students got extra credit for learning and perfecting the reverse spiral bandage!). While wrapping the limb, twist the bandage over itself. When twisting the bandage make sure that you’re still mindful of the bandage distance as you are scaling up on the limb. This is one of the more complex bandaging techniques our medical assistant students learn.

      How to apply a butterfly bandage

      It is important for a medical assistant to learn all the following wrap techniques because each of them serve a different purpose. These wrap techniques are to create pressure points on the affected area, whether it’s swelling, bleeding, or a sprain, these techniques are applied to provide support and comfort for the injured body part.

      READY TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP?

      The SBBCollege Medical Assisting Program provides the skills and knowledge for students to become medical assistants. Our program includes hands-on training to enable students to master the skills of administrating injections, sterilizing instruments, venipuncture procedure, and much more. Students can complete the program in about 9 months, including on-the-job training!

      Have questions about our nursing program or the nursing field in general? We’re happy to answer all of them. Call us today at 866-749-7222!

      1. Wash and dry the extremity and place a topical dressing on any wounds
      2. Flex the patient’s foot to 90 degrees so that bunching doesn’t occur.
      3. Using either a lose wrap or open wrap method, start at the base of the toes and continue to the knee. An Unna’s boot should never stop mid-calf, and the bandage must be applied in such a manner that swelling can occur.
      4. A variety of materials can be used to wrap an Unna’s bandage.

      Purpose

      As a wound or foot care nurse, you’ll encounter a variety of ailments requiring specialized treatment. For patients with chronic swelling due to edema or venous disease in the lower extremity, an Unna’s boot could help drain fluids, reduce pressure and pain, increase blood flow and encourage skin health and wound healing.

      Precautions

      An Unna’s boot isn’t for everyone. Because it is designed to work with the contraction of the muscle to force one-way bicuspid valves open in order to move fluids, an Unna’s boot is recommended for patients who are active and not bed or wheelchair bound.

      Once applied, an Unna’s boot can remain in place for up to a week. However, if drainage causes leaks, the dressing must be promptly changed. Similarly, the boot is not intended to be worn while showering or bathing. For either of these to occur, the wearer must cover the entire bandage in a plastic protector in order to eliminate contact with water.

      Preparation

      The layers of the Unna’s boot are designed to work together to reduce swelling from fluid and improve circulation. Before applying the first layer, wash and dry the extremity and place a topical dressing on any wounds.It is also a good idea to gently smooth lotion or cream on the skin of the leg for addition skin health and protection. It is best to apply the cream or lotion after the wound dressing is in place so that the dressing will stay in position.

      Next, flex the patient’s foot to 90 degrees so that sores aren’t created by the bunching of material on the front of the ankle.

      Purchase paste bandage.
      Purchase self-adhesive wrap.
      Start with the Unna’s boot paste dressing. There are a variety of paste bandages you can work with, however, a zinc paste will reduce the possibility of allergies occurring. Wearing gloves during this process will ensure your hands aren’t soiled by the paste. Ensure your patient’s clothing is out of the way as well.

      Paste bandages do not contain elastic fibers and therefore do not stretch. The bandage must be applied in such a manner that swelling can occur. It is therefore extremely important never to wrap the bandage tightly; there should be no tension on the bandage while you wrap your patient’s foot and leg.

      How to Apply Unna’s Boot Dressing

      Always suspect that more swelling might occur, even with the Unna wrap in place.

      To protect the patient from serious skin and vascular damage the Unna should be applied by one of the two methods below.

      Overlay or Loose Wrapping

      This type of wrap can be created using a folding technique. Much like an accordion has expandable folds, so does a loose wrap. Ensure that your accordion folds are smooth and reside at the top of the foot so that no pressure points or sores can develop. As with basic spiral wrapping, begin at the top of the foot at the base of the toes.


      Open Wrapping
      An open wrap is another variation of a loose wrap. However, here, instead of creating an accordion fold that can expand, we never close the bandage at all. To create an open wrap, start at the base of the toes, as with both other methods. Release some of the bandage as if to wrap the bottom of the foot, and stop. Now fold the bandage back over onto itself and wrap in the opposite direction. When you have reached the top of the foot again, reverse the direction of your wrap once more. In this way, the top of the bandage wrap always remains open.

      With both methods, it is important to apply the wrap from the base of the toes up to the top of the fibula, about two or three fingers distance below the knee. An Unna boot should not stop partially up the calf.


      Finishing

      A variety of materials can be used to wrap an Unna bandage. A 4 inch wide cohesive (eg. Coban) wrap is the most common top layer after the Unna is applied. This cohesive layer will add about 15 mmHg compression and protect clothing from the paste of the Unna. Other alternatives for a top layer are cast padding or an ace wrap. These do not have the advantage of assisting in edema reduction.