Chapter 4: Administering meds

Applying medicine patches

He preferred the medicine patch over so many pills. He said at least this didn’t upset his stomach.

Applying a medicine patch

There are several types of medications that are given in a patch form. These may be easier to administer, but there are several things to keep in mind to ensure the application is safe and comfortable for both you and the person who is ill and to optimize the patch’s effectiveness and intended use. Click on each phrase to read more information.

Many factors can contribute to poor patch adherence. Individual skin characteristics, such as oiliness or sweat, may interfere with adhesion. A particular brand of patch may not be suited to that individual, in which case, it may be worth trying a patch manufactured by another company.

Tips to optimize patch adherence:

  • Select the area of skin where you will be placing the patch.
  • Choose a flat surface on the upper torso (back or front), arms, or thighs where skin movement is limited. Avoid areas where the skin wrinkles or folds with body movement.
  • Select a different area from the previous location to avoid skin discomfort and changes in medication blood levels.
  • Do not apply to broken, irritated, or scarred skin or to areas affected by radiation treatments as this can affect adherence and absorption.
  • Avoid hairy, swollen, or bony areas, or areas of muscle loss, which can interfere with adherence and absorption.

Trim hair with scissors. Avoid shaving the area prior to application of the patch.

Cleanse the area with water and allow to dry completely.

Avoid the use of soaps, cleansers, oils, lotions, alcohol, or other agents that might interfere with adhesion, irritate the skin, or alter the drug's ability to penetrate the skin. While patients should avoid alcohol-based products, individuals with oily skin have reported success with isopropyl alcohol if they gently cleanse skin first, then wash the area well with water to remove the residual alcohol, allowing it to dry completely before applying the patch.

Avoid the use of “skin prep” products (such as those used to protect skin surfaces or increase adhesion before application of an ostomy appliance or dressing). These products create a barrier on the skin that will interfere with absorption of the medication.

However, in cases where patch adherence has been difficult, individuals have reported success with cleansing the area with water, allowing to it dry, then carefully applying the “skin prep” just to the area where the adhesive border of the patch will be, beyond the skin that will be in contact with the medicated area of the patch (only under the edge of the patch’s adhesive border).

Warm the patch by holding it (still in its wrap) between the palms of your hands for a few seconds before applying.

Press the patch firmly in place with the palm of your hand for 30 seconds. Make sure that contact is complete around the entire edge of the patch. This step is important because the contact adhesive is pressure sensitive, and the warmth activates the contact adhesive.

For certain patches, you may need to apply tape to increase adherence of the patch. Manufacturers recommend the application of a microporous tape around only the edges of the patch.

Avoid a covering dressing because it may apply pressure and alter drug release. This advice may vary according to the type and manufacturer of the patch. Ask your pharmacist to review specific directions, and visit the manufacturer’s website or call their medical information line for further direction.


Be aware that the patch contains medication that may be very strong, and that some medication may still remain on the patch when you remove it. It is essential that you wear gloves while preparing, applying, and removing a medicine patch.

Watch the video for a demonstration and for tips on applying and using a medicine patch.

Administering medications - Applying a medicated patch from Canadian Virtual Hospice on Vimeo.

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