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Leon's Blog

How to make a wound closure bandage with duct tape

How to make a wound closure bandage with duct tape


Have to improvise a wound closure device? Try duct tape.

by Leon Pantenburg

The more you learn, it seems, the more you realize how much more there is to learn.

That’s what happened after my first Wilderness First Aid class for Boy Scout leaders and volunteers. I got home after completing the class, and went through my first aid kit with a fine tooth comb. I threw out some things, but added many more.

Butterfly bandages or Steri-Strips are used to close wounds.

Butterfly bandages or Steri-Strips are used to close wounds.

One item I added was Steri-Strips. These are an H-shaped adhesive strip designed to close wounds. They adhere to the sides of the wound to pull it together. This, in some cases, can eliminate the need to suture or puncture the skin.

But suppose you run out or have to improvise this wound closure?

I was reading the third edition of “The Survival Medicine Handbook” by Joseph Alton, MD and Amy Alton ARNP when I found this simple method for improvising a steri-strip out of duct tape.

Here’s what you do:

This demo bandage shows how to improvise a butterfly bandage with duct tape.

This demo bandage shows how to improvise a butterfly bandage with duct tape.

Before doing anything, clean the wound and the area around it as best you can. This is where individual alcohol or other sterile wipes come in really handy.

Measure the wound to be closed.

Start out with a large size piece of duct tape.

Cut an “H” out of the tape.

Fold the center tabs inward – the idea is to create an area that won’t stick to the wound.

Trim the ends to fit the area.

Draw the edges of the wound together, and close it.

Naturally, you don’t want to rely on a makeshift bandage unless it’s absolutely necessary. Get some first aid training, make a complete emergency medical kit, and practice using it.

But this technique with duct tape might come in really handy at some point. Let’s hope you never have to use it!

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Leon's Blog

Leon Pantenburg is a wilderness enthusiast, and doesn't claim to be a survival expert or expertise as a survivalist. As a newspaperman and journalist for three decades, covering search and rescue, sheriff's departments, floods, forest fires and other natural disasters and outdoor emergencies, Leon learned many people died unnecessarily or escaped miraculously from outdoor emergency situations when simple, common sense might have changed the outcome. Leon now teaches common sense techniques to the average person in order to avert potential disasters. His emphasis is on tried and tested, simple techniques of wilderness survival. Every technique, piece of equipment or skill recommended on this website has been thoroughly tested and researched. After graduating from Iowa State University, Leon completed a six-month, 2,552-mile solo Mississippi River canoe trip from the headwaters at Lake Itasca, Minn., to the Gulf of Mexico. His wilderness backpacking experience includes extended solos through Yellowstone’s backcountry; hiking the John Muir Trail in California, and numerous shorter trips along the Pacific Crest Trail. Other mountain backpacking trips include hikes through the Uintas in Utah; the Beartooths in Montana; the Sawtooths in Idaho; the Pryors, the Wind River Range, Tetons and Bighorns in Wyoming; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, the Catskills in New York and Death Valley National Monument in southern California. Some of Leon's canoe trips include sojourns through the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia, the Big Black River swamp in Mississippi and the Boundary Waters canoe area in northern Minnesota and numerous small river trips in the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Leon is also an avid fisherman and an elk, deer, upland game and waterfowl hunter. Since 1991, Leon has been an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, and is a scoutmaster wilderness skills trainer for the Boy Scouts’ Fremont District. Leon earned a second degree black belt in Taekwondo, and competed in his last tournament (sparring and form) at age 49. He is an enthusiastic Bluegrass mandolin picker and fiddler and two-time finalist in the International Dutch Oven Society’s World Championships.

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