The four major types of bandages are dressings, roller bandages, tubular bandages and triangular bandages. They are necessary for covering wounds, applying pressure controlling bleeding, or supporting a strain or sprain. There is a specific bandage made for each of these tasks. It's a good idea to keep a bandage of every type in your home first aid kit.
Dressings are used to cover wounds, prevent contamination and control bleeding. Adhesive dressings are used mainly for small wounds. They come in many different sizes, including specific types for placement on fingertips and knuckles. Gauze dressings are thick, cotton pads used to cover larger wounds. They are held in place with tape or by wrapping with a gauze strip. Dressings must be sterile and absorbent to deter the growth of bacteria, and should be left in place until the wound heals, unless it needs to be regularly cleaned.
Roller bandages are long strips of material. They are often purchased wound into a cylinder shape. An elastic roller bandage is used to apply support to a strain or sprain and is wrapped around the joint or limb many times. It should be applied firmly, but not tightly enough to reduce circulation. Cotton or linen roller bandages are used to cover gauze dressings. They come in many different widths and are held in place with tape, clips or pins. They can also be used for wound compression if necessary, as they are typically sterile.
Tubular bandages are used on fingers and toes because those areas are difficult to bandage with gauze. They can also be used to keep dressings in place on parts of the body with lots of movement, such as the elbow or knee. Larger varieties support joints, hold dressings in place and can be used under a cast. The drawback to tubular bandages is that they require an applicator to put on and can be more expensive than roller bandages.
Triangular bandages have a variety of uses. When opened up, they make slings to support, elevate or immobilize upper limbs. This may be necessary with a broken bone or a strain, or to protect a limb after an operation. Folded narrowly, a triangular bandage becomes a cold compress that can help reduce swelling. It is used also for applying pressure to a wound to control bleeding. Triangular bandages are made of cotton or disposable paper.