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Wound Wisdom: The Best Bandage for Every Boo-Boo

So you’ve gone and injured yourself—again. If you’re like most people, your medicine cabinet is full of bandages, gauze, tape, and various injury treatments that you probably don’t even remember buying. Which to use? It might seem like it doesn’t matter, but it does. By choosing the right one for every scratch and scrape, you can vastly increase your comfort and even speed your healing. And if none of these seem like enough to handle your injury, you might want to consider getting to a hospital.

The Basic Bandage

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Whether you choose old-fashioned plastic, flexible fabric, transparent, or a waterproof version, a standard adhesive bandage is best for small, simple wounds like nonbleeding punctures, small burns, or scratches that aren’t bleeding profusely. They’re best on areas where the skin doesn’t stretch or flex; use them to cover a small burn on the arm, but not on the elbow or over a knuckle. Don’t use regular bandages on any wounds that require compression or are bleeding heavily. (Band-Aid Water Block Plus Clear, $3.79, Walgreens.com)

Medicated Bandages

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A bandage with antibiotic ointment on the pad is used for the same kinds of simple, nonbleeding, nongaping wounds as a standard bandage, but the presence of an antibiotic helps to minimize scarring by keeping the wound moist and preventing scabbing. Use them on visible parts of the body where you might want to avoid a scar. (Band-Aid Plus Antibiotic Adhesive Bandages, $4.69, Drugstore.com)

Butterfly Closures

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Use a butterfly bandage on any wound that needs to be pulled together to heal, like deeper cuts with smooth, regular edges. The middle of a butterfly bandage is nonadhesive to prevent it from sticking to wounds. Cuts that are bleeding may require compression first, and since butterfly closures are used on wounds that gape, it’s often best to cover them with a gauze pad or a large, flat bandage. (Walgreens Butterfly Closures, $2.39, Walgreens.com)

Large Adhesive Pad

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Large, flat pads are best for injuries like burns or scrapes on broad, flat areas of the body. They have the same limitations as a small adhesive bandage—they can’t provide compression or close a wound—but they are good choices for bigger-surface injuries on nonmobile areas. (Absolute Waterproof Premium Adhesive Pads, $6.79, Drugstore.com)

Blister Bandages

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These waterproof, hydrocolloid pads absorb fluid from blisters, sores, and other seeping wounds, to draw the fluid away from the wound and promote healing in a sterile environment. A strong adhesive keeps the bandage on for several days to keep out germs and bacteria. (Curad HydroHeal Advanced Healing Blister Care, $5.99, Amazon.com)

Dot Bandages

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Best for small, non-bleeding puncture wounds like pinpricks or insect stings, these bandages are discreet and unobtrusive. (Nexcare Soft ’n Flex Bandage, $2.99, Drugstore.com)

Spray Bandage

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Use a spray bandage on minor scrapes or burns that are dry, clean, and not bleeding. The antiseptic spray creates a breathable barrier to infection, and benzocaine relieves pain. (Spray Bandage, $5.20, FirstAidSuppliesOnline.com)

Liquid Bandage

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On areas that flex and stretch or are don’t fit a regular bandage (like knuckles, toes, feet, between the fingers, and fingertips), a liquid bandage creates an antiseptic, waterproof seal that’s flexible and durable. It’s also good for small cuts and incisions that need only minor help to close. (Skin Shield Liquid Bandage, $3.49, Drugstore.com)

Finger Cots

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Keeping a bandage on an injured finger can prove tricky when it comes time to wash dishes, use the bathroom, shower, or take on other wet or dirty tasks. Finger cots slip on over bandages to provide temporary protection from moisture or germs. (Finger Cots, $4.99, Walgreens.com)

Steri-Strips

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One step up from butterfly bandages, steri-strips are used to hold longer or deeper incisions closed while they heal. Some doctors use them instead of doing stitches, and the surgical-grade tape keeps the edges of the wound together to minimize scarring. (Nexcare Steri-Strip Skin Closure Adhesive Surgical Tape Strip, $9.99, Drugstore.com)

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