The words bandage and dressing are very similar and loosely defined, making it sometimes difficult to understand the difference between the two. There is no textbook answer to this question; however, generally speaking, a bandage is more of a supportive device used to hold a dressing in place. A dressing is usually in direct contact with the wound or injury and differs from a bandage in that it aims to heal, whereas a bandage simply supports healing.
There are a plethora of dressings and bandages in existence. This makes sense with all of the possible conditions that a person can experience. A burn, abrasion, cut, or other injury may require a particular type of dressing. Each dressing, depending on size, location, and other factors, needs to be held in place in a particular fashion in order to be effective. This is how the bandage and dressing are so closely related.
A bandage and dressing can act to stop a cut from bleeding or heal a chronic wound — this medical marriage should not be underestimated in importance. The dressing tends to be more expensive than its counterpart due to the possibility for specialization. Dressings sometimes contain antibacterial agents, such as silver, or are made of expensive materials like skin grafts or silicon. Factors like these can make the application of a bandage and dressing quite expensive.
The most common type of bandage is gauze. This is a rolled form of gauze that most people are familiar with as a household item. Sometimes, this is referred to clinically as kling or conform. Although there are different names, most variations refer to the same woven, rolled fabric designed to hold dressings in place, provide cushioning, and absorb drainage possibly associated with the injury at hand.
Gauze is very useful for a variety of reasons. One is the ease at which it can be applied. Sometimes, wounds or other health conditions present themselves in unique areas of the body. Only products similar to gauze are able to weave into the body's nooks and crannies to hold virtually any dressing in every conceivable location.
A medical professional should always be present or consulted before the application of a bandage and dressing. This will help ensure the procedure is done accurately and effectively. It will also maximize the potential for a full patient recovery.