“ Brand: Tesco / Type: Fabric strapping / Dosage Form: Straps „
We have cats. A lot of cats. Seven, to be exact. Two of that number are feral kittens that we rescued. One of them, Ninja, hates us with a passion that burns brighter than the sun (but is still happy to eat the food we buy her. Cats are hypocrites). Her brother, Roobarb, loves everything and everyone but is still skittish and runs off at speed in response to any loud noises or sudden movements. Last week I was giving him a cuddle when I managed to walk into a light. The bang and the swinging light meant that he took off out of my grip in a manner which suggested he'd dined on nitroglycerin. Initially, I thought he'd just bruised and scraped my arm. Then I looked down and saw that my hand was bleeding really heavily and was starting to throb in the manner of a deep cut that you just know going to be a sod to heal. The bit of my hand that he'd slashed open was that awkward bit where the skin stretches between thumb and forefinger so I knew right away I'd need more than the bog-standard plaster. A quick rootle around in the medicine box brought me to this, adhesive strapping.
===What is it?===
Essentially, it's the sticky bit of fabric plasters but without the cushioned section. It's about as adhesive as plasters and is stretchy and flexible. Unlike plasters, it comes on a roll - like Sellotape - so you can cut off as much as you need.
===Did it work?===
I put a silver-impregnated plaster over the actual wound as I thought the combination of it being a cat scratch and in an awkward place would make infection a lot more likely. I'm not someone who ever uses rubber gloves for work around the house so I knew that plaster would fall off almost immediately, therefore I decided to bind the fabric strapping around my whole hand to ensure the dressing stayed on.
Because it's stretchy, you have to be careful to let the strapping go loose before you apply it; the first time I didn't and my fingers were starting to go a worrying colour after half an hour. Second time lucky I wound it slightly more loosely around my hand and had no problems. The flexibility of the strapping was better for this kind of injury than something like microporous tape because it had a bit of give and I could still move my hand and fingers.
I'd say the strapping lasted for around 24 hours before it needed to be changed. I was very careful not to get it wet, even going so far as to wear a latex glove in the shower, but by the next day the adhesive was weak and the bandage was coming loose. As it's a fabric product it also picks up stains and mine was starting to look a bit grubby. I wasn't that impressed, to be honest, but I suspect that it would have lasted longer somewhere like my arm where it was less exposed to moisture.
This is a useful product for holding a dressing in place or for strapping an injury, but be aware that it will lose effectiveness rapidly if exposed to any moisture.
If you'd been there, you'd understand how I fell on my head but hurt my hand at gymnastics, and despite icing it later in the pub (by, ahem, wrapping said hand round my glass of diet coke) when I woke up the next morning I had two fingers that wouldn't bend, one of which was rather blue and had a comedy bubble knuckle to boot. This warranted a morning trip to the doctors where I got to ask the lovely question of 'Broken, dislocated or sprained?' Along with the mostly reassuring pronouncement of 'Probably sprained' I received the advice to tape up the worse of my fingers (I couldn't do both as there was nothing to immobilise the second one with). The nurse couldn't do it herself as she had no tape, but sent me to Tesco across the road to pick some up myself. I am not in the habit of hurting myself, so didn't have anything like this in my home first aid kit, but I imagine it could be quite useful because it can be used in two ways, to strap fingers, toes etc, and also to secure dressings.
Tesco Stretch Fabric Strapping has been price dropped to £1 (from £1.17) and comes in a 2.5cm by 4m roll, in a small cardboard box. You can find it on the shop floor, and in my Tesco it was in between the painkillers (which I can understand) and the pregnancy and ovulation kits (slightly less obvious). I actually asked at the Pharmacy first, but they didn't have any at the counter.
This strapping is a bit like a sticking plaster but without the absorbent pad in the middle, meaning it is sticky all the way along. It has a woven fabric top, similar to those found on plasters, and is a pale peachy colour which I suppose is to help it blend in a bit more with your skin though it's more like a child's representation of skin when colouring in rather than anything I've ever seen on a person.
This is a very sticky item. Once it's applied this is a useful feature as it stays put and saves you reapplying. However, initially I found this a pain as I was trying to cut a suitable length and it kept curling round and sticking to itself - as you can imagine, doing this mainly one handed didn't help matters. I also found it a bit tough to cut and my paper scissors didn't work, so I had to fetch my sharper kitchen ones. It is definitely not a product you could rip. The picture shown on the packaging, above, is a complete misrepresentation - at no point did I ever see the end float gracefully away from the roll...
In the end I also found it easier to roll it round my fingers and then cut it so I only had to manage a small unstuck end, not a whole sticky length. The product sticks well to both skin and itself, and I tended to make a complete wrap with it to secure one end under the other and reduce the risk of it peeling off. I was a little worried that removing it might be painful as plasters can be, but it came off easily enough once I began to pick at it, and wasn't noticeably painful.
Something I didn't especially like was the width of the strapping, but research since has shown that 2.5cm seems to be the standard for most brands. My problem was that I wanted to strap my fingers twice, above and below the knuckle (the nurse had said to leave that free so that it could have a little movement and wouldn't stiffen up too much). I have small hands so the distance between the top of one knuckle and the bottom of another is barely 2.5cm, meaning I had to apply it precisely. Again, not the easiest thing to do one handed. If you were using this to apply a dressing it wouldn't matter at all, but the difficulty I had with my fingers, I would definitely have struggled if it were being used on toes. You could in theory cut it down the centre to reduce the width but I think this would be tricky given how tough and how sticky it is.
The only other thing I didn't love is again not unique to this brand: the strapping got rather sweaty when I was working out which wasn't pleasant, and meant I had to change it sooner than normal, not because it wasn't still sticking well, but because it was a bit moist and disgusting inside. I don't tend to notice my fingers sweating when I exercise, so I think having the strapping on exacerbated it.
These niggles aside, I was impressed with the product as it lasted much better than I'd thought for the price. I have only use a small amount of the strapping, and the rest will be kept for next time... The roll sticks to itself and is wrapped round a plastic core to help it keep its shelf, so I have no reason to think it won't last well in my bathroom cabinet. It worked exactly as I needed it to, helping me immobilize my middle finger and allowing it time to heal, while allowing me a small amount of movement to prevent it and my healthy finger next to it getting too stiff and painful. It is flexible enough to have some give, and strong enough to keep you in place.
You can buy brand name fabric strapping too, but I can't imagine how the Tesco one could be improved - certainly not in terms of stickiness, effectiveness or value for money, so it's this one I recommend.