Where can I find truly hypoallergenic bandages?
July 28, 2014 12:13 PM   Subscribe

Every adhesive bandage I've used in the last year has irritated my skin to some degree. What can I do?

About a year ago, I fell while moving a piece of furniture and got a bad scrape that was big enough I used gauze and medical tape to cover it. The medical tape gave me horrible contact dermatitis; blistering, sloughing, the works. It took about two months to completely go away.

The allergist told me I didn't have a latex allergy and that I should try different hypoallergenic bandages and tapes until I found one that worked for me. I haven't been able to do that. No reaction has been that severe, but everything that has glue on it at all has caused some kind of reaction. The best I can get is about two days with no irritation (hydrocolloid bandages and some normal hypoallergenic bandaids), but that's not long enough to let many things heal.

I have very bad poison ivy reactions, but my skin isn't otherwise particularly sensitive. I have sometimes reacted to bandages in the past, but it seems to have gotten worse, whether the tape incident was some kind of catalyst or not. I saw the only allergist within an hour's drive, so a second opinion is possible but inconvenient.

What else can I try? If it turns out I can be touched by no adhesives, what can I use to bandage myself? What do I tell doctors if I need surgical dressings? Thanks!
posted by hollyholly to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This is probably not appropriate for small wounds, but if there's another large scrape, gauze and an Ace bandage would probably do the trick.
posted by Flamingo at 12:25 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Have you ever tried Tegaderm film? It's expensive as hell but VERY nice and will stay on much longer than other products. You can get it in many form factors; here is one.
posted by julthumbscrew at 12:26 PM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Have you tried the liquid bandage stuff? There's dermabond, which I think is basically krazy glue made less irritating, and some other things which dry/cure to more of a rubber cement texture. I had a bunch of the latter used in place of external stitches after recent surgery and it was great. It didn't itch or burn at all, and I am very sensitive to regular bandaids, to the point where a recent 2nd degree burn healed faster than the rash I got from the bandaid.
posted by elizardbits at 12:40 PM on July 28, 2014

Best answer: There is wound tape that sticks only to itself and not to you. Depending on where the wound is that might be a solution as you just slap the gauze on and wrap it around the body part I have recently started reacting react to most adhesives in medical products & find it's OK on me. If you have reactions to that then I'd go the ace bandage or elastic bandage route.
posted by wwax at 12:41 PM on July 28, 2014

I was going to suggest the wound tape above that they wrap on you after they draw blood with gauze. And yeah this is probably a reaction to the medical adhesive. I have a mild version of it. My best advice, besides the wrapping tape and gauze, would be to buy different types of bandaids and slap them somewhere less visible like you thigh and see if any do okay.

You tell doctors that you're alllergic to medical adhesive. They'll know what you're talking about.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:46 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

The bandages that give a reaction only after two days, what happens if you replace them with a fresh bandage every day? That's the first thing I would try.
posted by Night_owl at 12:47 PM on July 28, 2014

I tend to react to most bandages. There is some brand that causes me less problems than others but I don't recall what it is because I basically just do not use bandages.

I clean the wound and keep it clean while it heals. If it is fairly bad, I press the open edges together to stop the bleeding and try to let them seal naturally. I then try to be careful for a few days to not reopen it. I then soak it in salt water and apple juice and/or consume foods that I know will accelerate my skin healing.

I get minor cuts and scrapes on a routine basis. The body will heal itself if given the building materials to do so and if you keep it clean. It's kind of designed to do that.
posted by Michele in California at 12:48 PM on July 28, 2014

I've had the best luck with the paper tape.
posted by kbuxton at 12:57 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I have the same problem - allergic to adhesives. Seconding the advice to tell doctors & surgeons about your reaction (I had 2 c-sections and they put an adhesive film over your entire stomach- OMG it was worse than the incision pain!). I use the bandage rolls that stick to themselves. They come in a ton of different widths so they're suitable for most locations.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 1:00 PM on July 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The only thing that does not give me dermatitis is the CVS brand hydrocolloidal bandages (and I've only used the large ones). Like, I'm having to use them on a deep cyst that is draining and so am wearing them for days and days. No rash.

I bought Walgreens' brand once and had a rash in a couple of hours.

They're really expensive, though you can cut them down.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:21 PM on July 28, 2014

Best answer: I have the same problem. I initially used the self-adherent bandage wrap ("coban" is the trademark name) as suggested above, but unfortunately I've also recently developed a sensitivity to that, too. For anything that needs to be bandaged for more than a couple days, I've had to get creative with wrapping a cloth ace bandage on top of a hydrogel (in my case, tegaderm/hydrocolloid also sucks; I'm talking about the wet "second-skin" stuff) or plain gauze pad. The coban is definitely easier, but if you find it irritates you too, try an ace wrap.

I also take Claritin in the day and Benadryl at night if it starts up, which I have found very helpful.

So sorry you're experiencing this! It sucks, sometimes worse than the wound itself. Hope one of these options gets you some relief.
posted by Westringia F. at 1:49 PM on July 28, 2014

Best answer: Have you tried Cavilon? It's a thin, very quick-drying clear liquid that's available as either a spray or wipes. It forms a barrier between your skin and the adhesive of whatever bandage you're using. I was skeptical, but I've been using it daily for many months with no trace of sensitivity or irritation. Works great.
posted by Corvid at 2:06 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You might also try a tubular mesh bandage. They come in lots of sizes and work great for holding a gauze on. My elderly fragile-skinned mother-in-law uses them for all her scrapes.
posted by SLC Mom at 2:28 PM on July 28, 2014

I've got issues with this, too. Using gauze with paper tape (in the band-aid aisle) has been a lot nicer to my skin than the adhesives on regular bandages and other medical tape.
posted by phatkitten at 2:43 PM on July 28, 2014

Best answer: I'd try some Stachys byzantina, or Lamb's Ear.
It's been used as bandages, (& toilet paper) since Ancient times.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 5:14 PM on July 28, 2014

Best answer: Nthing tegaderm. I get 10 packs on Amazon for just under $10. Even "Sensitive skin" band-aids give me a rash, but the tegaderm has been great.
posted by getawaysticks at 7:13 AM on July 29, 2014

Response by poster: Tegaderm *without* the hydrocolloid seems to do the trick. I'm just putting sterile gauze and antibiotic ointment under them if something needs to seep. Thanks!
posted by hollyholly at 6:11 AM on August 28, 2014

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