How to Make Your Medicine Patch Stick

How to Make Your Medicine Patch Stick

As a spoonie/chraintim*, there are certain struggles in life you have to learn to accept. These often include being fatigued, increased irritability, and for many of us, trying to get those damn patches not to fall off. I wear two different types of patches: I wear a 25mcg/hr Fentanyl patch and a 0.2 mg/day Clonidine patch. When I first started wearing them, they were such a pain! (No pun intended. :P) I would try to find a fairly hairless area that I didn’t have wipe down with alcohol, and hold the patch on for 30 seconds like the doctor/pharmacist/box recommended and hope for the best. My patches would dry up and fall off just walking around, but the worst was the shower. I would lose at least one patch every shower I took! This made me have to apply patches more frequently, which meant I ran out of patches too quickly, which meant I didn’t have enough medication in me, which resulted in higher pain levels. You see why this is a real problem?

Well after wearing multiple types of patches for the past five and half years, I’m going to share the tips and tricks I’ve learned over many moons to getting your medicine patches to actually stay on your body! I’ll start off with my main three ways to apply patches, and then I’ll share some general tips that most people wouldn’t even think about when giving directions for making a medicine patch stick.

  1. Wipe the chosen area off with a warm, wet rag and dry off before applying the patch. I know this is a commonly given tip, but it’s a rule that isn’t followed as often as it should be. When I first started using patches, I thought, “Who cares if wiping the area with rubbing alcohol intensifies the effects of the medication, as long as it gets the patch to stay”. But the truth is, it doesn’t. It over dries the area and makes the patch come off even more easily. A warm, wet rag wipes off sweat and lotion, but still allows your body’s natural oils to assist with the adhesive process. So use the tip of a towel or washcloth to wipe off the area, but remember to dry it off too! I wear one patch low on my chest (alright my on my breast!) and I sometimes get lazy and just apply the patch after I’ve gotten out of the shower and have already applied body lotion. I always lose that patch within two days. So this tip is an oldie, but a goody.
  2. Apply an adhesive wipe to the chosen area before applying the patch. Some of you may have heard of these, others might not have. My pharmacist first suggested these when I expressed my difficulties with getting the patches to stick. Basically, it works like one of those prepackaged antibacterial wipes your mom used to stick in with your school lunch. It’s a wet wipe that you simply go over the area with (although I still suggest doing tip number one beforehand). It doesn’t make the area sticky exactly, but it makes it feel like the back of one of those Christmas decorations you stick up in your windows. They aren’t sticky, but they are made out of just the right material and just the right texture to make them stay and look cheery for the entirety of the holiday season. After you wipe down the area and let it dry, you just apply the patch as per usual. My pharmacist will give me five or six sample wipes every time I pick up my patches (but I apply way more patches than that, so I use them sparingly), but you can also buy a box of them. Unfortunately, they are kind of expensive, but if you are having a lot of trouble, it could be worth it.
    *Keep in mind that what you are applying on your body with the wipes will need to be removed in between patches. So don’t be alarmed if it starts to peel.
  3. Use an adhesive patch cover that you can apply on top of the patch. Some patches come with these in the box (like my Clonidine patches) and other don’t (like my Fentanyl patches). However, I have used patches for so long I have a bunch of extra covers laying around from older boxes. These covers don’t have any medicine in them, they are just larger, thicker, stickier protector patches that stop the medicine patch from coming off early. These covers only protect the medicine patches from outer interferences (like water), but are of course still affected by the sweat that is formed underneath the patches. Unfortunately, they also make patches more noticeable. That’s actually why I wear my Clonidine patch on my breast. That patch will come off every time I take a shower if I don’t use a cover, but if I leave it up on my chest, it becomes very noticeable. I also sometimes use my Clonidine covers for my Fentanyl patch if I am going swimming because I know the patch will otherwise be effected by if submerged in water. One last tip for covers, you have to remove the cover and the patch at the same time. Or said differently, you can’t remove the cover without the patch. When you apply the cover, it is sticking to the patch too! Please learn from my mistake!

Now these are a few little tricks I have learned over the years that I don’t think most people would think to share.

  • Hold the patch on for more than 30 seconds! Besides the pressure of your hand, what’s making the patch stick is the HEAT of your hand. I usually sit down and watch TV or YouTube and hold it on for a full five minutes. You want that gummy ring to start to form around the edges of the patch, and that’s not gonna happen in 30 seconds.
  • I know the box says to apply the patch to somewhere with minimal amount of hair, but don’t worry too much about that. Don’t apply to the middle of your forearm if it’s really hairy, but your upper arms are usually a safe bet. When you wear the patches long enough, that area will naturally stop growing hair anyway. Also, the box says not to shave an area for the patches, but if no other area is working for you, shave away! Or use a chemical hair remover. I use the $1 Avon kind and it actually works!
  • It doesn’t really matter where you apply the patches, just make sure it’s somewhere that works for you. I do suggest you apply somewhere you can easily reach (not the middle of you back), because the edges will start to roll up and you’ll have to put your hand over it again for at least 20 seconds every day. If you do it on your arms, I suggest not to apply it too close to your elbow. The skin near your elbow wrinkles when you bend your arm, making it harder for the patch to stay on.
  • Don’t wear too strong of patches on too sensitive of skin. The first time I wore the Fentanyl patch, I wore it on my chest and it ended up burning some of my skin off. So now I wear it on my upper arm where the skin is tougher. I get asked if I’m quitting smoking a lot, but you can always just reply, “No, I’m quitting burning”. You know  you’re talking about your skin, but they don’t. The look on their face will give you a good laugh.
  • There are different brands of patches! Some work better than others. I personally use Mylan for both of my patches because not only do they stick better, but they are flatter since they don’t have that gel filled pouch like some other brands do. Experiment with different patches. Ask your pharmacist what brand customers say work best for them. You’ll find the right brand for you.

Whether you are about to start wearing a medicine patch for the first time, or having been wearing them for years like me, I hope something in here helped you. If I missed anything, you agree with something, or have any additional questions, let me know in the comments below! Also, I would really appreciate if you could share this post, because you never know who might need this information.

*Chraintim is a word I made up that abbreviates the phrase “chronic pain victim”, which I got tired of typing repeatedly. Plus, the word is kind of cool. You should try using it too!

Photo credit: Foter / CC BY-SA

6 comments on How to Make Your Medicine Patch Stick

  1. genevieve
    July 18, 2015 at 9:54 am (3 years ago)

    THANK YOU!!! I just got put on the 75mcg patch and am having a hell of time getting those suckers to stick. REALLY enjoying your blog. I have an underbite and have been debating getting surgery for years but can’t anymore because I have CRPS in my feet/left leg along with some other post-Lyme issues. Thank you for sharing your story!!!

    • jaelinpalmer
      July 21, 2015 at 8:17 am (3 years ago)

      Thank you so much for reading Genevieve! The whole reason I started this blog was to connect with other spoonies so we could help each other through shared experiences. The patches really can be a pain (no pun intended) if you don’t have experience with them, so I’m glad this was helpful. I’m sorry you can’t get the surgery anymore, but maybe it’s for the best. I believe everything happens for a reason. I’m sorry for your pain and I’m wishing you extra spoons!

  2. Bill
    May 30, 2017 at 5:16 pm (2 years ago)

    Thanks. I wear a Clonidine patch and am one hairy dude. I thought what does it really matter if I shaved a part of my chest for the patch. My upper arms are the only non-hairy places but the patch makes them itch pretty bad around day 4. So I need somewhere besides my upper arms. Thanks for the info. It was very insightful.

    • jaelinpalmer
      August 29, 2017 at 12:16 am (1 year ago)

      I’m so glad I could help! It’s very difficult finding the right place for the patches. For me, Clonidine patches worked best on my chest and Fentanyl worked best on my upper arm. The itching does go away after several months though. Feel free to reach out if you have any other questions!

  3. Delvia
    August 15, 2017 at 5:57 pm (1 year ago)

    I just started wearing the fentanyl patches and I have trouble with them sticking around the edges. I’m gonna try holding it longer than 30 seconds. I have to wear the clear protective patch over them to make sure they stay on the whole 72 hours. I enjoyed your blog!!

    • jaelinpalmer
      August 29, 2017 at 12:18 am (1 year ago)

      Thank you so much for reading Delvia! I would also suggest trying different brands. One time my pharmacy was out of the brand I usually get, and it turns out the brand they have in stock is even better! I put my Fentanyl patches on my upper arm so I can hold it down occasionally within the 72 hours. I’m at the point now where it almost always lasts the fill 72 hours. Please reach out if I can be of any more help and thanks again for reading!


Leave a Reply