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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
When you have a scrape:
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you
should see a doctor.
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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.
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.)
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.
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
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.
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.
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home
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.
Be sure to have a tetanus shot every 10 years.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the
June 6, 2012
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
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