A triangular bandage is a large triangle of cloth, usually a loose-weave cotton cloth, used in first aid. It is also called a ‘cravat’ (French for necktie) because it is sometimes folded to the shape of a long narrow band, for certain uses. This type of bandage has many applications:
1. Folded as a thick rectangle of cloth, the cravat can be placed over a large wound. In this case, it functions like a trauma pad, absorbing blood and helping to stop bleeding.
2. One folded cravat can be used as a trauma pad, and a second cravat can be used to wrap the wound and trauma pad. In this usage, it functions like first-aid tape, to hold the trauma pad in place.
3. If a victim has an injured arm, a triangular bandage can be used as a sling, to support the arm in a bent position over the chest. A second cravat (folded as a long band) can be used around the torso as a swathe, to immobilize the arm against the chest. This technique is called a sling and swathe. Dedicated sling and swathe kits are available for purchase. But the advantage of the triangular bandage is that a few compact bandages serve multiple purposes. This allows a smaller first aid kit to do more.
4. If a victim has a broken leg, the leg can be immobilized with a blanket between the legs and a couple of cravats to tie the legs together, firmly but not so tight as to restrict circulation.
5. If a victim has a sprained ankle or wrist, a cravat can be used like an Ace bandage to wrap and support the appendage. Always remember, when wrapping, bandaging, or taping any wound, to avoid restricting circulation.
6. In the case of a head wound, a triangular bandage can be wrapped over the forehead and around the top of the head to cover the wound. Do not use bandages over the eyes, nose, or mouth. Do not use bandages of any kind around the neck, because you might restrict circulation to the head.
You can buy a dozen triangular bandages from various first aid supply stores or online at Amazon and other e-retailers. They are inexpensive and very useful. No first aid kit, of any size, should be without them.
You can make your own triangular bandage. Buy white (actually off-white) unbleached muslin cloth. Cut a square about 3 feet by 3 feet. Then cut the square diagonally, along the bias (at a 45 degree angle to the direction of the weave). In this way, when the triangle is folded as a cravat, the band of cloth will stretch along its length. This is useful so that the cravat will wrap a wound firmly, but not too tightly.
Even the best first aid kit is nearly useless if you have no training. TAKE A FIRST AID COURSE! (Yes, I am shouting this point.) This is not a perfunctory disclaimer. You really need first aid training to be able to use first aid supplies without doing harm.
Do not use a cravat or other bandage or tape over a compound fracture (a broken bone in which the bone is sticking out of the wound).
In a medical or other emergency, call 9-1-1 (in the U.S.) or whatever the local emergency phone number is in your area. Seek professional medical help. First aid is only a first step.
Follow your first aid training. Do not exceed your training. Do not play doctor. Know your limits, and always avoid doing anything that might harm a patient.
Most cravats (triangular bandages) are not sterile. Replace with a sterile dressing as soon as possible, and get the victim to professional medical help.