Causes and types of scrapes
Scrapes (abrasions) are skin wounds
that rub or tear off skin. Most scrapes are shallow and do not extend far into
the skin, but some may remove several layers of skin. Usually there is little
bleeding from a scrape, but it may ooze pinkish fluid. Most scrapes are minor,
so home treatment is usually all that is needed to care for the wound.
Scrapes occur most often in warm weather or warm climates when the skin
on the arms and legs is more exposed. They are most commonly caused by
accidents or falls but can occur anytime the skin is rubbed against a hard
surface, such as the ground, a sidewalk, a carpet, an artificial playing
surface, or a road (road rash). School-age children ages 5 to 9 are most
Scrapes can occur on any part of the body but usually
affect bony areas, such as the hands, forearms, elbows, knees, or shins.
Scrapes on the head or face may appear worse than they are and bleed a lot
because of the good blood supply to this area. Controlling the bleeding will
allow you to determine the seriousness of the injury. Scrapes are usually more
painful than cuts because scrapes tear a larger area of skin and expose more
How a scrape heals
depends on the depth, size, and location of the scrape. Occasionally the injury
that caused the scrape will also have caused a cut or several cuts that may
need to be treated by a doctor. For more information, see the topic
What to do if you get a scrape?
When you have a scrape:
- Stop the bleeding with direct pressure to
- Determine if other tissues, such as
blood vessels, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, bones, or internal organs,
have been injured.
- Determine if you need to be evaluated and treated by a
- Clean the wound and remove any dirt or debris to
prevent infections (both bacterial skin infections and
tetanus, or lockjaw), decrease scarring, and prevent
"tattooing" of the skin. (If dirt or other debris is not removed from a scrape,
the new skin heals over it. The dirt can then be seen through the skin and
often looks like a tattoo.)
- Determine if you need a
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you
should see a doctor.
Minor scrapes can be treated
effectively at home. Home treatment can prevent infection and promote healing.
If you do not have a high risk of infection, do not have other injuries, and
do not need a tetanus shot or an evaluation by a doctor, you can clean and bandage
a scrape at home. How a
scrape heals depends on the depth, size, and location
of the scrape.
Stop the bleeding with direct pressure to
Nonprescription products can be applied to the skin to help
stop mild bleeding of minor cuts, lacerations, or abrasions. Before you buy or
use a nonprescription product, be sure to read the label carefully and follow
the label's instructions when you apply the product.
After you have
stopped the bleeding, check your symptoms to decide if and when
you should see a doctor.
A scrape may continue to ooze small
amounts of blood for up to 24 hours and may ooze clear, yellowish, or
blood-tinged fluid for several days.
Cleaning the wound
Clean the wound as soon as
possible to reduce the chance of infection, scarring, and "tattooing." (If dirt
or other debris is not removed from a scrape, the new skin will heal over it.
The dirt can then be seen through the skin and may look like a tattoo.)
- Remove any splinters from the scrape
before you get the splinters wet..
- Use a large amount of water under moderate
pressure (faucet at least halfway open). Washing the wound will remove as much dirt, debris, and
bacteria as possible, which will reduce the risk of infection.
you have a water sprayer in your kitchen sink, try using the sprayer to wash
the wound. This usually removes most of the dirt and other objects from the
wound. Avoid getting any spray from the wound into your eyes. It may be easier
to rinse a large, dirty scrape in the shower.
- Wash the wound for 5
minutes with large amounts of clean, running water and soap. Mild dishwashing soap, such
as Ivory, works well. Some nonprescription products are available for wound
cleaning that numb the area so cleaning doesn't hurt as much. Be sure to read
the product label for correct use.
- Scrub gently with a washcloth.
Moderate scrubbing may be needed if the wound is very dirty. Scrubbing your
scrape will probably hurt and may increase bleeding, but it is necessary to
clean the wound thoroughly.
- Do not use rubbing alcohol, hydrogen
peroxide, iodine, or Mercurochrome, which can harm the tissue and slow
Stitches, staples, or skin adhesives (also called liquid stitches)
Determine whether your wound needs to be treated by a
doctor. Scrapes usually do not need to be closed with stitches, staples, or skin adhesives, but sometimes you will have a deep cut along with a scrape.
Consider applying a bandage
Most scrapes heal well
and may not need a bandage. You may wish to protect the scrape from dirt or
irritation. It is important to clean the scrape thoroughly before bandaging it
to reduce the risk of infection occurring under the bandage.
Scrapes may heal with or without forming a
- Select the bandage carefully. There are many
products available. Liquid skin bandages and moisture enhancing bandages are
available with other first aid products. Before you buy or use one, be sure to
read the label carefully and follow the label's instructions when you apply the
- If you use a cloth-like bandage, apply a clean bandage
when your bandage gets wet or soiled to further help prevent infection. If a
bandage is stuck to a scab, soak it in warm water to soften the scab and make
the bandage easier to remove. If available, use a nonstick dressing. There are
many bandage products available. Be sure to read the product label for correct
- Watch for
signs of infection. If you have an infection under a
bandage, a visit to your doctor may be needed.
- An antibiotic
ointment, such as polymyxin B sulfate (for example, Polysporin) or bacitracin,
will keep the bandage from sticking to the wound. Apply the ointment lightly to
the wound. Antibiotic ointments have not been shown to improve healing. Be sure
to read the product label about skin sensitivity. If you have a skin rash or
itching under the bandage, stop using the ointment. The rash may be caused by
an allergic reaction to the ointment.
- Determine whether you need a
- You may have a localized
reaction to a tetanus shot. Symptoms include warmth, swelling, and redness at
the injection site. A fever of up to
100°F (37.8°C) may occur. Home
treatment can help reduce the discomfort.
Swelling, bruising, and pain relief
ice or cold pack may help reduce swelling and bruising. Never apply ice
directly to a wound or the skin. This could cause tissue damage.
Elevate the injured area on pillows while applying ice and anytime you
are sitting or lying down. Try to keep the area at or above the level of your
heart to reduce swelling.
Medicine you can buy without a prescription
| Try a nonprescription
medicine to help treat your fever or pain:|
- Acetaminophen, such
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs):
- Ibuprofen, such as Advil or
- Naproxen, such as Aleve or Naprosyn
- Aspirin (also a nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drug), such as Bayer or Bufferin
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and
forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two
medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
| Be sure to follow
these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:|
- Carefully read and follow all
directions on the medicine bottle and box.
- Do not take more than
the recommended dose.
- Do not take a medicine if you have had an
allergic reaction to it in the past.
you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take
- If you are or could be pregnant, do not take any medicine other
than acetaminophen unless your doctor has told you to.
- Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home
- Signs of infection
- Symptoms become more
severe or more frequent.
Since most scrapes are caused by accidents
or falls, it is hard to prevent them. Some general safety tips may reduce
your risk of injury.
- Pay close attention to what you are
- Know how to use objects properly.
- Have good
lighting so you can see what you are doing.
- Prevent falls in your home by removing hazards that might cause a fall.
gloves whenever possible to protect your hands.
- Wear other safety
gear, such as glasses or boots, as appropriate.
- Wear protective
gear, such as hand, wrist, elbow, or knee pads and helmets, during sports or
- Store dangerous objects in secure places
away from children.
- Teach children about safety, and be a good role
Be sure to have a tetanus shot every 10 years.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
Questions to prepare for your appointment
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the
- What are your main symptoms? How long have you
had your symptoms?
- How and when did the injury occur? Have you had
any injuries in the past to the same area? Do you have any continuing problems
because of the previous injury?
- Did other injuries occur at the
- What home treatment measures have you tried? Did they
- What nonprescription medicines have you tried. Did they
- What prescription and nonprescription medicine do you
- Were drugs or alcohol involved in your
- When was your last
- Do you have any
- Marine Stings and Scrapes
- Puncture Wounds
|By: ||Healthwise Staff ||Last Revised: June 6, 2012|
|Medical Review: ||William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine|
H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine