From travel sickness to insomnia, how patches can improve your health like Love Island’s Rebecca – The Sun

STICK-ON medical patches are becoming a popular alternative to popping pills.

Last week, Love Island contestant Rebecca Gormley showed off the Evra plaster on her thigh, which is used as contraception.

Some medicines, hormones and nutrients are small enough to be absorbed by the outer layers of the skin, the epidermis.

So what other patches are available – and should you stick with them? Here, Tanith Carey takes a look.

Travel sickness patch

A common symptom of travel sickness is vomiting so patches, such as Scopoderm, can beat tablets because the medication goes directly into the bloodstream, rather than the stomach, which empties when someone throws up.

Usually stuck on just behind the ear, these prescription-only patches use hyoscine hydrobromide, which reduces the muscle spasms that causes you to vomit.

HRT patch

Around a million women in the UK take hormone replacement therapy to ease symptoms of menopause, such as hot flushes. HRT replaces the oestrogen that ovaries are no longer producing.

But while HRT is mostly taken as a daily pill, a growing number of women use patches, which are usually stuck to the skin below the waist and replaced twice a week.

Woman’s health expert Dr Deborah Lee of says studies show patches are less likely to cause blood clotting that can lead to strokes and heart attacks.

And patches also don’t decrease levels of sex hormone testosterone in women, like HRT pills, so your sex drive won’t suffer.

Contraceptive patch

More than ten million women take The Pill in the UK to avoid getting pregnant.

But growing numbers are turning to Evra, the UK’s first contraceptive patch — as worn by Rebecca on Love Island — so they don’t forget to take it every day.

The 4cm square patch, which needs to be changed weekly, contains the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, like the combined pill, and works in the same way to prevent the release of an egg.

However, studies have found it does not protect women over 14st. It also offers no barrier against sexually transmitted infections.

Vitamin patch

Nearly half of UK adults take daily vitamins — and we are popping them in higher numbers than ever, spending more than £427million on them each year. As vitamins tend to be bigger than normal tablets, as they usually have more ingredients, there is a growing market for these patches.

But vitamins and minerals tend to be made of larger molecules than drugs, so some research has found it is harder for them to be absorbed through the skin. Most are designed to be stuck anywhere on the body overnight.

Nutrition expert Jenny Tschiesche of says research has found that vitamins seem to be more easily absorbed when taken in pill form.

A study last year in the journal Obstetric Surgery compared levels in patients after operations and found those who took them via multivitamin patches had lower levels of vitamin D than those who took the same doses by mouth.

Stop smoking patch

When you want a cigarette, it is the nicotine they contain that is causing your craving. Nicotine patches work by releasing small, controlled amounts of this chemical through your skin, without the other harmful substances found in fags, such as tar and carbon monoxide.

You can apply them anywhere, but often doctors advise sticking to them to less hairy parts of your body, like your upper-arm or hip, so they are not painful to remove.

Dr Deborah Lee says: “Nicotine itself is not harmful, but smoking it exposes your lungs and your whole body to the noxious effect of tobacco smoke. When trying to quit, it’s nicotine your body craves."

“So if you use nicotine patches, these give a steady release of nicotine to help counteract cravings. They are ideal for this because, over eight-to-12 weeks, the patches can be gradually withdrawn.”

The arthritis patch

Aching joints? Rather than pop a painkiller, research has found that pain relief patches work better. Doctors are prescribing such patches, which go on the upper-arm, chest or back, to last from three-to-seven days.

They contain painkilling opiates, such as fentanyl, which change the way the brain responds to pain. In studies, 80 per cent of patients who tried the patches said they reduced aches.

Skin expert and GP Dr Rekha Tailor, of Surrey-based Health and Aesthetics, says patches are particularly helpful for long-term discomfort and are often safer because patients feel “less peaks and troughs” than if they took the medication by mouth.

“The flow of drugs is delivered through the skin and into the bloodstream at a constant rate which is useful for when long-term treatment is required.”

The acne patch

If you wake up with a throbbing spot under the surface of a skin, a new generation of high-tech patches can help zap it.

ZitSticka (£27, comes lined with ‘microdarts’ – or spikes which dissolve and, over two hours, dispense 24 ingredients.

These often include niacinamide, which reduces redness, sodium hydroxide, which balances your skin PH levels, and salicylic acid which dissolves dead skin cells.

The added bonus is that you won’t be tempted to squeeze that upcoming pimple either.

The forgetfulness patch

People who are living with Alzheimer’s — around 250,000 people in the UK, will have more trouble than most remembering to take their medicine.

However, doctors can prescribe a 10cm square Exelon patch which delivers a steady stream of a drug which sharpens the memory and helps them think more clearly.

The patch, which can be stuck to the upper-arm or back, contains rivastigmine, which helps the brain cells communicate better.

Compared to taking it by mouth, research has found that patches for Alzheimer’s tend to have fewer side-effects, such as nausea.

The insomnia patch

Melatonin is a hormone made by the pineal gland, a pea-shaped gland in your brain that helps you fall and stay asleep.

Now patches infused with the hormone are available to stick on your back, arm or shoulder, when you go to bed to help you sleep.

The Sleep Starter Topical Patch (£16.95 from for 30) also contains magnesium which calms the nervous system.

However, the research on melatonin has not yet shown clearly if it improves insomnia. Instead, research shows such patches may work best when you are trying to reset your sleep cycle, like when you are recovering from jet lag.

The hangover patch

Stick it on your back or hip last thing at night and it’s claimed you will wake up with fewer symptoms of a hangover, such as a headache.

The Last Call Hangover Prevent Patch (£16.95 for 30, delivers a mix of Milk Thistle Extract and ginger root to help your liver get rid of the toxic by-products as it breaks down the alcohol.

It also replaces lost minerals and vitamins during this process. Although a fry-up is still top of our hangover cures.

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