Using medicine skin patches safely

Also called transdermal patches

Easy-to-read medicine information about how to use medicine skin patches safely.

What are medicine skin patches?

Medicine patches (also called transdermal patches) are attached to your skin to slowly release medicine from the patch into your body over a period of time. There are a number of medicines available as patches including pain relievers, nicotine, hormones and medicines to treat angina and motion sickness. 

The instructions of how to apply each patch and how often, is different for each type of patch. Your pharmacist will explain how to use your medicine patch. There should also be a leaflet inside the box, read it before using your patch. Each product will have specific instructions for use, but here is some general guidance.

Tips to apply medicine patches safely

Follow the instructions carefully for the use of your patch.  Always check where it is best to apply your patch eg, the upper arm, body, hip or behind the ear.

Apply the patch to a clean, dry area of skin. Choose an area with little or no hair and free of scars, cuts, or irritation. Each new patch is best applied to a different area of skin to prevent skin irritation.

When applying the patch, press firmly down on it with the palm of your hand to make sure it is firmly attached. Ensure the new patch is put on before the protective cover is applied.

Keep the patch in one piece. Don't trim or cut the patch to adjust the dosage, unless you have been told to by your doctor.

Check the area to make sure the patch is staying in place, especially after sleeping, changing clothes, or showering. If it becomes loose, cover it with the extra adhesive overlay provided. If a patch comes off, replace it with a new one as soon as possible.

Some people find it handy to record the date and time the patch was put on. This is very useful for patches that are changed once a week or every few days.

Remove all used patches when a new one is put on.

How to properly apply a transdermal patch

Watch the video below to see hot to apply a transdermal patch properly.

 (Apotex Inc, Canada, 2015)

Medicine patches and heat 

Avoid applying heat to the patch, such as a heating pad or hot water bottle.  Heat can release the medicine faster and can cause an overdose. 

Medicine patches and MRI scans

If you are having an MRI scan, tell your doctor or x-ray technician about any medicine patches you are wearing. Some patches may need to be removed just before the scan because they can overheat and cause skin burn.

How to dispose of medicine patches safely

Remove all used patches when a new one is put on. When you remove a patch, fold it in half so that it sticks to itself, before throwing away. 

It is important to store and dispose of medicine patches out of the reach of children or pets.

To a child, medicine patches look like stickers or harmless bandages. There are many reports of children finding patches and sticking them on their body. Children and pets can also chew, suck, or swallow patches. 

If you discover a patch is missing from your body, stop everything. Find it before your child or pet does.


  1. How to use transdermal patches Safe Medication, US
Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 01 Aug 2022