Woman applies a plaster to her finger; man applies plaster to finger while cooking; mother applies plaster to her daughter

Plasters are one of the most important items found in a first aid kit. They hold a wide variety of uses and are essential when dealing with many kinds of injuries. There are a wide range of plasters available, each with different benefits, so it can be difficult to discern which plaster is right to use.

Medical plasters come in three main varieties: fabric plasters, washproof/waterproof plasters and blue plasters. In addition to these, there are other more specific use plasters like burn plasters, blister plasters and specially shaped plasters made to conform with body parts like knuckles and fingers.

Using the right plaster in the right situation can make all the difference when it comes to ensuring a wound heals efficiently.

The different types of plasters

Mother applying a plaster to an injury on the knee of her young son

Fabric plasters

Close up image of a fabric plaster

Fabric plasters are durable, breathable and can easily stretch to conform with body parts. While their strong adhesive allows them to provide a high level of protection over a long period of time, they are likely to fall off when wet and won’t keep a wound dry.

Consider using fabric plasters only if you know the wound will rarely come into contact with water.


Washproof and waterproof plasters

Close up image of a washproof plaster

Washproof plasters provide a resistance to water and are suited for use in damp conditions. They retain their adhesion through moisture and moderately wet conditions. For that reason, they are the practical choice for many injuries and are one of the required items in a British Standard compliant first aid kit.

While washproof plasters provide protection in moist to moderately wet conditions, a waterproof plaster is necessary for more rigorous usage, like frequent full submersion.


Blue plasters

Close up image of a blue plaster Blue plasters are a requirement for food and catering environments. Their adhesion is strong enough to prevent cross-contamination between a wound and food product, and their vibrant colour ensures that they are easily identified should they fall into food preparation and handling areas. A thin metal strip embedded into the plaster also means they can be seen by metal detectors scanning food product.

If you work in the food or catering industry, ensure that your workplace’s first aid kit has blue plasters, as they’re a requirement to comply with UK Food Hygiene Regulations.

Blister plasters

Close up image of a blister plaster

While a normal fabric or washproof plaster can further irritate a blister, blister plasters have a gel padding which helps to alleviate pressure from a blister and protect it from irritation. They form a barrier around the blister, preventing dirt and bacteria from contaminating it.

Blister plasters also offer a level of protection against friction, soothing the irritated area and allowing for more comfortable movement.

If the skin around a blister is red or feels hot, or if the blister is filled with green or yellow pus, you should seek medical advice before applying a plaster.


Burn plasters

Close up image of a burn plaster

Hydrogel burn plasters are designed for minor burns and scalds. They are treated with burn gel that cools and soothes the burn while covering it to prevent irritation and infection.

Burn plasters are commonly found in burn kits as they are a good alternative for burn treatment in scenarios where running water is inaccessible.


Frequently Asked Questions


How often should I change a plaster?

Best hygiene practice is to clean the wound and change any plaster or wound dressing daily if possible. Plasters should also be changed every time they get dirty or wet, or if blood soaks through.

Do wounds heal faster covered or uncovered?

It is a common misconception that uncovered wounds heal faster. Research shows the contrary; covered wounds heal three to five times faster and run a reduced risk of infection. Not only do plasters protect a wound from dirt and bacteria, but they also create a moist environment for the wound, promoting the growth of skin cells and thereby speeding up the healing process.

How long should I keep a plaster on a wound?

The length of time you should keep a plaster on depends on the severity of the wound. On average, you should keep a wound moist and covered for four to five days.

Should I put a plaster on a blister?

As blisters are often caused by close contact friction between the skin and other surfaces, you may be wondering whether applying a plaster to a blister would help or hinder the healing process.

Blisters are just like any other wound and require protection from dirt and bacteria to prevent infection. Blister plasters are breathable and moisture-retentive and help to keep blisters clean, ensuring an efficient healing process.

Seek medical advice if the skin around a blister is reddened or feels hot, or if the blister is filled with green or yellow pus.

Why does my wound itch?

An itchy feeling is a completely normal part of any wound’s healing process. As your skin cells reproduce, the sensitive nerves below your skin’s surface signal to your brain that your skin is being stimulated. Your brain interprets these signals as an itch. Your body also releases histamine to the wound during the healing process, a chemical that encourages cell regrowth and induces an itchy sensation.


There are many different types of plasters available and knowing which one to use is important for your safety at home and in the workplace. Make sure your first aid kit is properly stocked with the right plasters, and ensure that you’re using plasters safely and effectively.

About the author:

Jo Stokes is a writer, marketer and trained first aider at First Aid Online.
Find out more about Jo.