They’re the most versatile blister dressing there is. I refer to them in just about every article I write. And I’ve made 4 videos about them. So, it took me by surprise to realise I’ve neglected to write anything in depth about island dressings on this blog (except for those specialised toe bandaids). Officially in the “adhesive bandages” class of products (here’s the wiki page), but better known as blister bandaids or blister bandages, island dressings are essentially a piece of gauze in the middle of a bigger piece of tape. The gauze “island” is absorbent and non-stick. Its job is to absorb fluids from the blister and protect the delicate healing skin. And the surrounding “sea” of adhesive tape locks out dirt and germs, keeping the blister as clean as possible. Let’s look at 8 island dressings I’ve used on foot blisters, personally and professionally, and that you can use too. But first, take a look at what an island dressing actually looks like (video below).
What Is An Island Dressing
Which Blisters Are Suited To Island Dressings?
When it comes to foot blisters, there are two types of adhesive bandages you can use:
a) Island dressings
Island dressings are the topic of this article. A further division of this type of dressing sees dry and waterproof subcategories. All of the examples described in this article are dry island dressings. Waterproof varieties are advantageous if you’re in an environment where your feet are going to get wet.
b) Hydrocolloid Dressings
I won’t cover hydrocolloids in this article, but there are significant differences (like the type of blister they heal and you can leave these on for multiple days) You can learn more about how to use hydrocolloid dressings here, how to visualise the healing process here and the new & improved BlisterPod hydrocolloid bandages here
The Only Dressing Suitable For ANY Blister
You can put an island dressing on ANY blister: intact, torn or deroofed. Watch this super-helpful video about the aims of blister treatment and take note of how to choose the right blister dressings for each type of blister.
With this in mind, if you’re assembling a first aid kit or blister kit and you’re extremely conscious about minimising the bulk and weight, you can do without hydrocolloids. But pack plenty of island dressings! They’ll give you the blister protection you need.
The Most Well-Known Blister Bandaid Of Them All
1) Band-Aid® Brand Adhesive Bandages
The most well-known brand of island dressing or “adhesive bandage” is Band-Aid. So much so that bandaid has become a proprietary eponym, or genericized trademark, just like Kleenex, Velcro and ChapStick.
A generic trademark, also known as a genericized trademark or proprietary eponym, is a trademark or brand name that, because of its popularity or significance, has become the generic term for, or synonymous with, a general class of products or services, usually against the intentions of the trademark’s owner. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generic_trademark
Take a look at their logo: Band-Aid Brand Adhesive Bandages. They’re trying to hammer home the point that Band-Aid is a brand!
A trip to the chemist or supermarket will quickly highlight, Band-Aid brand bandaids come in lots of shapes and sizes. You’ll also notice a variety of materials used, delivering varying degrees of flexibility, water-resistance and adhesiveness of the bandaid.
See, even I can’t help but refer to island dressings as bandaids. But one must be careful when giving people blister treatment advice because the Band-Aid brand also sells hydrocolloid blister dressings, known as Advanced Healing or HydroSeal. As mentioned earlier, these gel bandages are definitely not island dressings and they should only be used on one type of blister for advanced wound healing, and that’s deroofed blisters. Before moving on to other brands, this is a point worth explaining.
Other Blister Bandaid Brands, Shapes & Sizes
Elastoplast is another very popular brand of adhesive blister bandages, often referred to as “plasters” or “sticking plasters”. They offer a comparable range of products to Band-Aid. They also have a product aimed at consumers who experience skin sensitivity reactions to the materials used, most often in the adhesive. Skin sensitivity is possibly more common than you’d imagine.
Elastoplast Sensitive skin bandages look perfect as blister bandaids. The white tape looks a lot like Fixomull Stretch which is well-known tape used in blister prevention and by podiatrists, particularly for its lack of sensitivity reactions. However, the product reviews on their website are surprisingly uncomplimentary. It seems the adhesive is quite strong – usually an asset but possibly not gentle enough on sensitive skin tpyes.
Still on the skin sensitivity issue, Patch’s bamboo bandages are both environmentally and skin-friendly. I recommend this product for those with allergies to adhesives in standard bandaids and can vouch for the absence of skin reactions. And their range of coconut oil, aloe-vera and activated charcoal is quirky and fun. Check out the FAQ page for more details on their ingredients. Their adhesiveness is not as strong as other dressings I’ve used, but still decent.
On the environmentally-friendly front, take a look at how they biodegrade compared to other bandages (video below). Patch is an Australian company with a great brand story. I’ve teamed up with Patch to provide their natural organic bamboo strips as random free gifts with purchases from our online store. But you can find them in many stores around the country – find your local Patch retailer.
I love Welly’s “bravery badges”. They’re fun, super cute and quite possibly the best practical gift ever (yes, I’m that Aunty!). They come in all shapes and sizes and their adhesiveness is quite good. Take a look for yourself. They’re an American product, not officially available in Australia (nor does Welly ship to Australia), but I managed to find a refill pack on Amazon.com.au about 12 months ago.
I use Livingstone’s “finger” and “joint” dressings a lot at work and in track-side blister care. Simply, I got on to Livingstone (an Australian Medical Supply company) as they were the only bulk supplier of such dressings a few years ago when I needed them. The shapes are perfect as toe bandaids! They also feature in our Ultra Blister Kit. The adhesive tape looks like every podiatrist’s favourite – Fixomull Stretch – but unfortunately it lacks the adhesiveness and stretch of Fixomull. I work around this by always locking in the edges with actual Fixomull. Easy, best of both worlds!
6) Cutiplast Steril
Cutiplast Steril is a brand of larger island dressings used to treat blisters. You’ll find these or similar at the chemist. I’ve used Cutiplast Steril a lot as blister bandaids for large blisters on the bottom of feet and back of heels. The adhesivenss is very good and I’ve never experienced sensitivity reactions.
See the sizes below. It’s important to consider the “pad size” ie: the size of the island. The island needs to be at least as big as your blister. Remember, the purpose of the island is to absorb blister fluids and not stick to the blister roof or raw blister base.
Primapore is comparable in every way to Cutiplast Steril as a blister bandaid or island dressing. It comes in the following sizes:
- 7.5cm x 5cm
- 8.3cm x 6cm
- 10cm x 8cm
- 10cm x 20cm
- 15cm x 8cm
- 10cm x 25cm
8) Nexcare Sensitive Skin Bandages
Have to admit I’ve never used these myself, but Nexcare is a well-known island dressing brand. Reviews seem to be quite positive in regards to good adhesion, ease of removal and lack of skin sensitivity reaction. They’re an interesting shape. I must get a box of these when I’m at the chemist next – it’s on my to-do list! Will update this article once I’ve given them a good test.
Waterproof Blister Bandages
As mentioned earlier, island dressings are either “dry” or “waterproof”. It’s the same concept: There’s an absorbent non-stick gauze island surrounded by a “sea” of adhesive tape. But in this case, water can’t get in. That obviously has it’s advantages for blister protection. If you have a torn blister but you want to go to the pool, choose a waterproof island dressing. Or if you’ll be hiking on wet muddy trails and you know your feet are going to get wet and muddy, choose a waterproof bandaid. Below are some examples from the Band-Aid brand, Elastoplast and Nexcare.
However, don’t let this give you a false sense of security. There are three traps to avoid with waterproof blister bandages:
- If your blister is already infected, a waterproof dressing will accelerate that infection due to the occlusion. So keep your blister clean as soon as you’re aware of it, use an antiseptic, and monitor your blister frequently to ensure it’s not getting worse.
- Especially if your blister is very weepy, don’t leave your bandaid on too long. The last thing your blister needs is a soggy dressing on it for long periods. Change it frequently – maybe a few times per day if it’s very weepy.
- Watch the edges! The clear tapes can lift easier than you might think. Remember, it’s only water-tight as long as the seal is intact.
3 Island Dressing How-To Videos
Okay, some dressing come in rolls. They aren’t strictly island dressings as they don’t lock out germs – when cut to size, they are open at two sides. There’s an easy fix though and I outline that fix in this video (below).
How To Make Your Own Island Dressings
Toe Bandaids – How To Apply An Island Dressing To The Tip Of Your Toe
Blister bandages, bandaids and even just tape is tricky to effectively apply to the tip of the toe. Watch this video to see how I make standard bandaids work for toe tips.
Bow-Tie / Butterfly Toe Bandaids For Toes
Last but not least, I love, love, love these toe bandaids for blisters at the tip of the toe. Do take a look at the video below. And make sure you get some similarly-shaped blister bandages to put in your first aid kit!
Who knew the “adhesive bandage” space was socomplex and full of options!
Personally, I can’t get my head around calling island dressings “bandages”. To me, bandages are the things you splint your broken arm with, or wrap around your sore leg. They’ll always be “island dressings” to me, or “bandaids”. Other commonly-used terms include plasters, patches and strips.
Which brands of blister bandaids, adhesive bandages, island dressings, sticking plasters, patches or strips do you favour for blister protection?