You may not think about it when you reach for your handy dandy first aid kit, but bandages have come a long way throughout the years. As medicine evolves, so does our understanding of how to bind and cover wounds. From paper cuts, nicks and scratches, to deep cuts and lacerations, there are many different ways in which wounds have been covered, closed, stitched and patched. So much so that many common household items first saw use in the medical field.
Healing Through History
While band-aids are one of the most common ways to cover a wound today, they aren’t the only means. Some methods of injury binding have been around since the early days of human history and are still used today, albeit quite a bit more sterile.
Bananas Really are the Perfect Food?
It’s hard to argue with a food that is not only good for you but also comes with it’s own natural wrapper, couple that with the fact that banana leaves can be used for bandages and it really is a perfect food. Leaves and animal hides have been used for bandages since humans have discovered that bleeding isn’t a good thing. Banana leaves, once sterilized have been shown to be just as effective as other bandages, with the added advantage of being accessible and considerably less expensive than synthetic bindings. Other leafy vegetable can also be used for this process such as cabbage leaves, wild yarrow and rose petals are all effective for fending off an infection.
Gauze, It’s not just for Mummies 4,000 BC
Gauze is one of the most common forms of bandage and dressing and still sees heavy use. Many testify that gauze was Arabic in origin, originating from the particular region of Gaza, where silk gauze was woven into fabric for clothing, due it being lightweight and breathable in nature. As well as these qualities another advantage to gauze is the loose weave that not only provides support but also keeps from adhering to the wound. Because of the gaps within the weave, gauze can be packed with ointments which further promote healing while keeping the dressing from sticking to the wound.
A Stitch in Time 3,000 BC
Sutures or stitches are another fantastic means of binding wounds. Much like mending your favorite shirt, sutures are used to sew skin back together, and holding it tightly so that healing can occur. Sutures have been made from a wide array of materials including fiber versions such as hemp, flax, cotton. Other sutures have been made from animal hair, intestines, arteries, nerves, muscle strips and every other bit imaginable. Some African tribes use ant mandibles, by coaxing the ants to bite the wound and then twisting their bodies off so the mandibles stay locked onto the skin. Just be glad that synthetic fibers were made in the 1930’s.
It was between the 1930’s and 50’s that synthetic materials start to become involved with wound care. Many ancient methods such as gauze wraps and sutures are still used but some other up and coming stars in the bandage world begin to take the stage.
Anatomy of a Band-aid 1920
When most people think of a bandage the first thing to come to mind is a band-aid. This is typically a cloth or plastic strip that has a small gauze pad attached. A bandage, as we know it today, is what is directly applied to a wound. However, a bandage is actually what holds the dressing, which is the part applied to the wounded area. In the case of a band-aid, the pad is the dressing and the adhesive strip is the bandage itself. The first band-aids made in 1920 were made by hand, and were 3 inches wide and 18 inches long. These band-aids weren’t a huge hit but began to pick up in popularity during WWII.
Duck, Duct, DUCT…. Tape 1942
Duct tape has had a long and illustrious history and has been a widely relied on go to for fixing just about everything. One of the greatest myths about duct tape was that it was created as a bandage during WWII. While it was actually used to seal ammo cases, duct tape does serve as fantastic makeshift bandage due to the fact that it’s super adhesive, water resistant and can be torn by hand. While it might not be a perfect solution, duct tape works great in a pinch until a proper bandage or medical treatment can be administered.
Stuck Like Krazy 1966
Another product in the same vein as duct tape is Super Glue. It was thought that super glue was originally created for the purpose of binding skin together. While cyanoacrylates were first created as a super clear plastic, they later became repurposed as an ultra adhesive. While the FDA balked at the idea of using it for medical purposes due to skin irritation, super glue saw some use during the Vietnam war as a means to stop bleeding until the patient could be escorted back to the medic tent. Since then, the cyanoacrylate formula has been altered for medical purposes giving rise to products like liquid bandage and New Skin.
As medical science advances, so does our means of treating wounds and injuries. With technology where it is now, not only can skin be grafted onto a wounded area, but it can also be cloned and grown. This means that severe burn victims can receive treatments to regrow the damaged skin, helping them get back to normal. As time progresses further, so to will our means of healing wounds and taking care of the skin we’re in.
William Toth is a freelance writer from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, who has been published across the web for a multitude of topics, some of which include: historical trends, cultural trends, and medical trends. Pioneering companies like Kensey Nash specialize in regenerative medicine and biomaterials.