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Patient education: How to use a skin patch (The Basics)

Patient education: How to use a skin patch (The Basics)

What is a skin patch? — A skin patch is a way to deliver medicines that are absorbed slowly through the skin. It is also called a "transdermal" patch. The patch might look like a bandage, but it has a layer of medicine in it.

Most skin patches are worn for a certain amount of time, then replaced. It is important to know how long to wear each patch. How long you need to wear it depends on the medicine. Some patches have enough medicine for 1 day. Others have enough medicine for a few days to a week. Always take off the old patch before replacing it with a new one.

What kinds of medicines can be given with a skin patch? — Examples include:

Birth control or hormone medicines

Pain medicines

Medicines to treat nausea, chest pain, or high blood pressure

Medicines to help quit smoking

Medicines to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ("ADHD")

Medicines to treat Alzheimer disease or Parkinson disease

How do I use a skin patch? — Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist if you have any questions about your medicine. In general, here are the steps to using a skin patch (figure 1):

Wash your hands with warm soapy water.

Check the medicine patch:

Read the label to make sure that you have the correct medicine and the correct dose. Check that the patch has not expired.

Know where to place the patch on your body. It is best to apply the patch to clean, dry skin with little or no hair.

Know how long you need to wear the patch and how often to change it. With some medicines, you remove the patch for a certain amount of time each day.

If you are already wearing a patch with the same medicine, remove the old patch and fold it in half so it sticks to itself. Some patches can be thrown away in the trash. Others should be flushed. Talk to your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist about how to dispose of the patch. It's important to dispose of them where children and pets cannot get to them.

If you removed an old patch, wash the skin where it was to get rid of any adhesive or medicine left over.

Wash and dry the area where you will place the new patch. Make sure that your skin is not irritated and is free of any oils, lotions, or powders. Some patches need to be put on a different area of the skin each time.

Open the package with the new patch carefully. Try to avoid using scissors. You might accidentally cut the new patch.

Take the liner off of the skin patch. Some liners have 2 parts. If so, only remove 1 part of the liner at first. Take extra care not to touch the sticky side of the patch.

Place the patch with the sticky side toward the skin. Firmly press the patch in place with your hand. If the liner has a second part, remove it and press the entire patch down. Use a finger to rub around the edges and press them into the skin.

Throw away the package and liner.

Wash your hands with soap and water.

What are the risks of using a skin patch? — Your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist will talk to you about all of the possible risks and answer your questions. Possible risks include:

Mild itching

Rash

Burning

Skin redness or color changes

Swelling

What else should I know?

Do not apply the patch to skin that is damaged or irritated. Do not put a patch on skin folds or where tight clothing, like a waistband, will rub it.

Make sure that there are no bumps or folds in the skin patch. It should be flat against your skin.

Take extra care when getting rid of used patches. They can still contain some medicine. This could harm children, pets, or others. Talk to your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist about the best way to dispose of used patches.

Know what you should do if your patch comes off too soon or starts to lift up at the edge. Ask if you should tape it down or get a new patch. Some products have a sticky cover to help hold the patch in place.

Know what you should do if your skin gets irritated where the patch is applied. Ask if it is OK to move the patch or if you should get a new patch to apply somewhere else.

Do not cut a patch unless your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist says to. If you accidentally cut or tear a patch, do not use it.

If you are having an X-ray or MRI scan, tell the technician that you are wearing a patch. Some patches can cause problems during these kinds of tests.

Always remember to remove the old patch before putting on a new one.

Know if it is OK to expose the patch to heat (like heating pads, hot tubs, or hair dryers). Heat can make your body absorb medicine more quickly, which can be harmful.

More on this topic

Patient education: Quitting smoking (The Basics)
Patient education: Hormonal birth control (The Basics)

Patient education: Quitting smoking (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Hormonal methods of birth control (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jun 02, 2024.
Disclaimer: This generalized information is a limited summary of diagnosis, treatment, and/or medication information. It is not meant to be comprehensive and should be used as a tool to help the user understand and/or assess potential diagnostic and treatment options. It does NOT include all information about conditions, treatments, medications, side effects, or risks that may apply to a specific patient. It is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for the medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment of a health care provider based on the health care provider's examination and assessment of a patient's specific and unique circumstances. Patients must speak with a health care provider for complete information about their health, medical questions, and treatment options, including any risks or benefits regarding use of medications. This information does not endorse any treatments or medications as safe, effective, or approved for treating a specific patient. UpToDate, Inc. and its affiliates disclaim any warranty or liability relating to this information or the use thereof. The use of this information is governed by the Terms of Use, available at https://www.wolterskluwer.com/en/know/clinical-effectiveness-terms. 2024© UpToDate, Inc. and its affiliates and/or licensors. All rights reserved.
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