A transdermal patch is a patch that attaches to your skin and contains medication. The drug from the patch is absorbed into your body over a period of time. If you’d rather not have a pill or an injection, a patch may be a more comfortable option for taking some medications.
Transdermal patches are used to deliver a range of drugs into the body. Some of the drugs more often used in patches include:
- fentanyl to relieve pain
- nicotine to help with quitting smoking
- clonidine to treat high blood pressure
Transdermal patches are easy to use, but for them to work well, it’s important to use them properly. This article provides step-by-step instructions and graphics on how to apply and use a transdermal patch.
You can use these instructions for applying a transdermal patch to your own body. If you’re a parent or caregiver, you can also use them to apply a patch to a child or another adult.
In addition to the transdermal patch, you’ll need soap and water.
- Read all instructions that come with your patch. The instructions will tell you where to place the patch, how long to wear it, and when to remove and replace it.
- Wash your hands with soap and water. If water isn’t available, you can use hand sanitizer instead.
- If you have an old patch on your body that contains the same drug, remove it. Do this by peeling back an edge of the patch with your fingers and then gently pulling off the rest of the patch. Fold the patch in half with the sticky sides pressed together. Throw away the used, folded patch in a closed trashcan.
- Decide where you will place the new patch. Your doctor’s instructions and the drug’s label or package insert should give information on where to put it. For instance, certain patches should be applied to the upper chest or the upper, outer arm. Others should be placed on the lower abdomen or hip.
- Prepare and clean the skin to remove any dirt, lotions, oils, or powders. Clean the skin using warm water alone or with a clear soap. Avoid scented soaps or soaps that contain lotion. Dry the skin with a clean towel or paper towel.
- Open the package carefully by tearing it open or using scissors. Avoid tearing or cutting the patch itself. If you do tear or cut the patch, don’t use it. Throw away the damaged patch as directed in step 3 above.
- Take the patch out of the packaging. Remove the protective liner on the patch as directed by the patch instructions. Be careful not to touch the sticky side of the patch. Note: If the patch’s protective liner contains two parts, first peel off one part of the liner. Apply the exposed sticky part of the patch to the skin and press down. Next, peel back the second part of the liner and press the entire patch down.
- Place the patch, sticky side down, onto the clean area of skin. Using the palm of your hand, press down on the patch to make sure the patch is firmly attached to your skin.
Applying the patch
- Use your fingers to press along the edges of the patch. The patch should be smooth, with no bumps or folds.
- Throw away the patch’s packaging in a closed trashcan.
- Wash your hands well with soap and water to remove any medication.
Follow these tips to help your patch work well.
Place the patch carefully
When placing a patch, choose a spot where the patch will attach well. Avoid skin that:
- has open cuts or sores
- gets sweaty
- gets rubbed a lot
- has a lot of hair (if needed, trim the hair in that area with scissors)
- was recently shaved (wait three days after shaving before applying a patch to an area)
- will be covered by a belt or clothing seam
Follow the instructions
Keep in mind that the skin isn’t the same everywhere on your body. Be sure to place the patch according to instructions from your doctor or the package.
Placing the patch on skin that’s too thin or too thick could cause your body to absorb too much or too little of the drug. This could lead to increased side effects or prevent the drug from working well.
Your doctor may suggest that you rotate the locations where you apply your patch. This is because placing a new patch in the same place as the old one may irritate your skin.
When rotating patches, stay in the same area of the body. For instance, if you’re told to use the patch only on your hips and lower abdomen, rotate the patch locations within those areas.
Don’t overlap patches
If you’re using more than one patch at a time, don’t overlap them. And don’t place one patch on top of another. The entire sticky side needs to be in direct contact with your skin.
Take care of loose patches
If the patch loosens or falls off, refer to your doctor’s instructions or the label instructions. In general, for a loose patch, you can use the palm of your hand to press the patch back onto the skin.
If one edge of the patch becomes loose, use tape or a sticky adhesive film to secure the loose edge. If the patch falls off completely, don’t try to reapply it. Throw it away and apply a patch at your next scheduled time.
It’s important to make sure the patch remains secure — a loose patch can adhere to other individuals with whom you’re in close contact, including children.
Don’t soak the patch
Feel free to shower as usual and to get the patch wet. However, don’t keep the patch under water for long periods of time. This can cause it to loosen or fall off.
Store patches carefully
Carefully store unused patches and dispose of used ones. Both used and unused patches contain an active drug, so keep them away from children and pets.
Avoid heating pads
Don’t use a heating pad on your body where you’re wearing a patch. The heat can cause the patch to release its drug faster. And that could cause an overdose.
If a patch doesn’t stick to your skin at all, don’t use tape to secure it. Safely dispose of the patch as directed above and use a new patch. Make sure you skin is completely dry after washing.
If your skin is red or irritated after you remove your patch, don’t worry—this is normal. But if the skin doesn’t start to heal in one to three days, call your doctor.
Transdermal patches can be an easy, effective way to receive medication.
If you still have questions about how to use them after reading this article, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.