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Applying plasters and other dressings

When you put on a plaster or dressing:

  1. Wash and dry your hands before putting on a plaster or dressing. Wear disposable surgical gloves if you have them.
  2. If the cut or wound is bleeding, sit or lie down, or get the person who's bleeding to do this.
  3. If you're helping someone else, tell them what you're doing as you put on the dressing.
  4. If you need to clean the wound, use bottled water or sterile wipes. Dry it with gauze pads.
  5. Stop any bleeding by applying pressure. If the wound is on a leg or arm, raise it higher than the heart.
  6. Use a dressing that's slightly bigger than the wound you want to cover.
  7. Hold the dressing at the edges, keeping your fingers away from the part that's going to cover the wound.

Plasters (adhesive dressings)

Plasters are made from a piece of gauze and have a sticky (adhesive) back. They're usually wrapped in single sterile packs.

They sometimes come in different shapes and sizes, or you can cut them to size. Some plasters are waterproof.

When applying a plaster:

  1. Clean and dry the wound and surrounding skin.
  2. Unwrap the plaster and hold it by the protective strips with the pad side facing down.
  3. Peel back the strips, but do not remove them.
  4. Place the pad on the wound, pull away the strips, and press the edges of the plaster down.

Replace the plaster every time it gets dirty or wet, or if the blood soaks through.

A small number of people are allergic to the sticky back. If you're putting a plaster on someone else, ask them if they are allergic before applying a plaster.

Bandages with sterile dressing padsĀ 

Sterile (hygienic) dressing pads come in a protective wrapping. They help to avoid infection. When you remove the wrapping, they are no longer sterile.

Make sure that you know which side of the pad should be placed against the wound.

When applying a sterile dressing pad attached to a bandage:

  1. Clean and dry the wound and surrounding skin.
  2. Hold the bandage on either side of the pad.
  3. Lay the pad directly on the wound.
  4. Wind the short end once around the limb and the pad.
  5. Wind the other end around the limb to cover the whole pad.
  6. Tie the ends together over the pad to secure it, and put slight pressure on the wound.

Dressings should be replaced changed on each day, until you can see that the wound is healing.

When to get medical help

If the wound is severe, you may need to go to an injury unit after putting on the dressing.

Non-urgent advice: Go to an injury unit with any cut or wound that:

  • is long - more than 1cm long in a child, and a bit longer in an adult
  • is more than half a centimetre deep, especially if you can see yellow fat in the cut
  • gapes open
  • is on the wrist, front of the elbow, near the genitals or involves deep cuts on the hand and fingers
  • won't stop bleeding after about 10 minutes, even with pressure
  • is on your face - especially around the eyes and mouth
  • has dirt or rust in it
  • is from a human or animal bite

If you cannot stop the bleeding, go to your nearest emergency department (ED) as soon as possible.

Page last reviewed: 15 August 2023
Next review due: 15 August 2026