How to care for a skin abrasion

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A skin abrasion is an injury involving the upper skin layer. It occurs when the skin is chafed or brushed due to friction against a coarse surface such as concrete or wood.

Depending on the severity of the injury, the wound might bleed or scar. Most abrasions are likely to occur on the knee, elbows and shoulders since these body parts have less protective padding and likely to strike the ground during falls.

Steps in caring for a skin abrasion

Hold down on the skin abrasion using a clean towel or cloth to control bleeding.
  • Hold down on the skin abrasion using a clean towel or cloth to control bleeding. The bleeding from this injury is rarely severe and placing firm pressure for 5 minutes is enough to stop the bleeding. If possible, raise the area with the wound above the level of the heart.
  • Rinse the abrasion using warm, clean water to get rid of any sand, gravel or other debris. Remember that the wound might sting upon contact with water. Once clear of any foreign debris, cleanse it gently using water and mild soap.
  • With an anesthetic spray, apply on the wound and surrounding area to lessen the pain and make the cleaning process tolerable.
  • Remove any trapped particles or splinters using tweezers. If there are leftover debris or dirt within the wound, it increases the likelihood for infection and scarring.
  • Dab an antibiotic ointment directly on the skin abrasion. This lessens the risk for infection as well as provide lubrication to the wound so that the dressings will not stick to it. Wrap the skin abrasion with a non-adhesive sterile gauze pad.
  • Change the bandage if it becomes wet, soiled or bloody or before sleeping at night. If the bleeding persists longer than 24 hours, it might be an indication of a serious injury that requires further treatment.

Considerations to bear in mind

Avoid touching the skin abrasion or removing any scabs that form on the skin surface. This will only increase the risk for infection and might even cause scarring.

It is not advisable to use hydrogen peroxide, iodine or alcohol on a abrasion since this can cause damage to the tissues and disrupt the healing process.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on a skin abrasion is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage this common skin injury, register for a first aid and CPR course with Mississauga First Aid.

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