How to Care for Steri-Strips: A Step-by-Step Guide
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If you would like to learn more about how to care for your own stiches, please visit our Stitches page. If you want to read more about sterilization, please visit our Sterilization page.
What is a Steri-Strip?
A sterile strip (also called a sterile bandage) is a thin sheet of gauze or similar material placed directly over the wound site and wrapped tightly around it. It prevents bacteria from growing, blood loss, infection, bleeding and skin irritation. Sterile strips are used to cover wounds that might otherwise bleed profusely or become infected due to contamination or poor surgical technique. They are not intended to treat broken bones, burns, insect bites or cuts.
Why use Steri-Strips?
Sterile strips are often used during surgery because they prevent infections and reduce the risk of blood loss. Additionally, they provide immediate pain relief when needed. When used correctly, sterile strips can be very effective at preventing infection and reducing the amount of time patients spend in the hospital.
When are Steri-Strips used?
Steri-strips are most commonly used on wounds that are bleeding heavily or multiple smaller wounds that might otherwise become infected. They’re often applied during surgery to patients with dirty or contaminated wounds that could become infected. However, sterile strips cannot be applied to deep cuts, puncture wounds, and animal bites due to the risk of infection.
Are Steri-Strips Painful?
Steri-strips can cause mild irritation and itching after they’re applied, but most patients don’t find them to be excessively painful. If you experience any pain, it can usually be addressed with over-the-counter pain medication.
How to Care for Steri-Strips: A Step-by-Step Guide:
1. Don’t disturb the wound.
In the hours immediately after surgery, don’t get the wound wet or allow it to get dirty.
2. Clean the wound gently with soap and water before applying a sterile strip.
Gently clean the affected area with mild soap and warm water using your fingertips (avoid scrubbing or soaking the wound). This will help ensure that the wound is as clean as possible before applying the sterile strip.
3. Dry the wound and wait at least one hour before applying the strip.
Allow your skin to dry completely before applying a sterile strip to ensure that it sticks.
4. Peel the paper backing from the sterile strip and place it directly over the wound.
Remove the paper backing and place the sterile strip directly over the wound. Some strips feature an adhesive layer that can be peeled off in sections, allowing you to carefully position the strip over the wound site.
5. Cover the strip with an adhesive bandage.
Use multiple adhesive bandages to hold the sterile strip in place. Make sure that the wound is still free from dirt or debris and resume cleaning it once per day until it is healed.
6. Change the bandage once per day.
Once the wound has fully healed, you should no longer need to apply a sterile strip or change the bandage.
Tips & Warnings:
Don’t apply sterile strips over infected or dirty wounds. Doing so can lead to an increased risk of infection.
Cleaning the wound before applying the strip is crucial, but be sure to rinse thoroughly to avoid irritating the skin.
When applying the sterile strip over a hairy area of skin, shave off all hair within a one-inch radius of the wound. This will ensure that the sterile strip properly adheres to the skin and doesn’t come loose.
Don’t apply a sterile strip over deep cuts, puncture wounds, or animal bites to avoid infection. These types of wounds should be cleaned by a medical professional as soon as possible.
If the skin begins to turn red, swell, itch, or show signs of infection after applying the sterile strip, seek medical attention.
If you experience pain while using a sterile strip on a sensitive area (like your genitals), try soaking the area with an over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen before applying the strip.
It can take up to a month for a wound to heal completely.
Take care when applying a sterile strip over an area that has been previously injured. US guidelines state that the wound should be free from dirt, debris, and foreign materials when treated with a sterile strip.
Be sure to use sterile strips only on wounds that have already been cleaned. If you have a dirty wound, seek professional medical attention.
Be very careful when opening the package. The strips can be quite fragile and are susceptible to tearing or breaking if roughly handled.
Don’t forget that sterile strips do not take the place of professional medical attention. If your wound requires stitches, seek emergency care or visit your primary care physician as soon as possible.
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