The Joy of Tape

We love tape.  We love improvised kit too but tape is one of those things that just can't be improvised.  Pretty much any textile can absorb blood, anything rigid can usually be used to fashion a splint but sometimes you just want something to stick things together.  

But tape can do so much more...

1.  Wound care.

This is a no brainer and what 99.9% of all tape will be destined for in a First aid kit.   Either for applying extra pressure to bleeding wounds or securing edges of specialist dressings, tape is a staple of wound care.  The best quality tape can be torn by hand lengthways to make steri-strips.   So if you have tape, steri-strips are one less thing to carry - and zinc oxide steri-strips will stick so much better.

2.  Limb and joint support.

Whether in combination with a SAM Splint and cling film or on it's own, non-stretch tape is great makes stabilising and supporting injuries a whole lot easier. 


3.  Spinal Management.

Sometimes you will need a second pair of hands, rarely more so than when managing a casualty with a suspected spinal injury.  When there isn't an extra pair of hands, there is tape.

Where the orange head blocks and straps were once the gold standard head support for a spinal board the reality is that tape and anything soft but bulky (such as tightly rolled up clothing) is perfectly good enough, faster and requiring less equipment.

4.  Securing stuff.

If anything with tubes and wires is in your skill set, such as Pulse Oximetry, advanced airways or fluid therapy for example, secure them in place.  Just because you have applied the kit does not mean it will stay there, especially if you casualty is moving, restless, agitated or being transported.

Secure everything.

Especially airways.

5.  Labeling stuff.

You may know your medic bag inside out.  You have practised packing it and unpacking it in the dark and blindfold but when things get exciting, everyone has brain-porrige from time to time.  Working in low light or poor visibility makes things 10 times harder so be magnanimous enough to label all of your kit.

Your may know your kit inside out but if you have a capable person who is willing and able to assist, they won't so make it easier for other people to help you.

Label your diagnostics with baseline values and normal ranges.  And does that Blood Glucose Monitor show you mmol/L or mg/dL?  This is the trivia we trip up on when we are flapping.

Label the casualty with their name and DoB, if known, so that you and they do not need to keep being asked the same questions.

Group items together such as airways with their syringe and a sachet of lube to save time gathering it.

6.  Keep it everywhere.

Once you get the tape addiction you will want it everywhere.

Keep it on your ID badge.  Zip tie a roll to the inside of your kit.  And get in the habit of folding a little tab over on the roll and whenever it is applied which makes it much easier to start and easier to remove.  Once this practice is started it poses a very real potential of forming an OCD-like habit.

Which Tape?

Microporous Tape

Bin it.  Seriously.  It has no place outside of a clinical setting.  It is fragile, not particularly sticky and seems to attract dirt like a magnet.   Micropore became popular in the 90s as it was seen as an advancement on the traditional Zinc Oxide tape.  It was 'surgical' and a little bit space-age which therefore made it 'better' but it really does only belong in an operating theatre or the school nurse's office.

Duct Tape

If you are from an outdoors or industrial background your first choice will be Duct Tape and it certainly has it's place:  It is strong, sticky (and do not underestimate how important that is if your casualty is even the slightest bit damp or sweaty) and easily available.

Duct (or Duck or Gaffer or Rigger or Cloth....) tape is ideal for a garage or a boot of a car but a 50m roll is too much to carry.   A popular practice is to take 5m or so and wrap it around an old unwanted storecard or similar.

If a roll of duct tape is the first thing you can lay your hands on, the colour is not the least bit important but if you are packing some in your kit try and find white or yellow as they are easy to write on and show up well on the casualty.  You are not on covert-ops, you want all of your treatments and interventions to be obvious to to person you are handing over to.

Zinc Oxide

Old friend.   Childhood memories of beige fabric plasters, stuck to your knee with ungodly white glue, heartlessly ripped clean away by some sadistic adult saying "If I do it quickly, it won't hurt!"

Yes, that stuff.  And this is what you need for all of the purposes listed above; something really sticky and with little or no stretch.

Things have moved on in the world of Zinc Oxide with 'Silk Tapes' such as Leukosilk® and 3M Durapore™.  Silk tapes are lower profile meaning they are less likely to 'curl up' at the edges when rubbing against clothing or skin, are easier to write on and can be torn by hand, not just across the width but along the length.

What do you find tape useful for?

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