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 affected.
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 nerve endings.
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 Cuts.
When you have a scrape:
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Some types of facial wounds are more likely to leave a scar than others. These include:
Stitches or other treatment may help prevent scarring. It's best to get treated within 8 hours of the injury.
With severe bleeding, any of these may be true:
With moderate bleeding, any of these may be true:
With mild bleeding, any of these may be true:
Pain in adults and older children
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
You may need a tetanus shot depending on how dirty the wound is and how long it has been since your last shot.
Symptoms of infection may include:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
To clean a wound well:
If a chemical has caused a wound or burn, follow the instructions on the chemical's container or call Poison Control (1-800-222-1222) to find out what to do. Most chemicals should be rinsed off with lots of water, but with some chemicals, water may make the burn worse.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Put direct, steady pressure on the wound until help arrives. Keep the area raised if you can.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
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 the wound.
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 scab.
Elevate the injured area on pillows anytime you are sitting or lying down. Try to keep the area at or above the level of your heart to reduce swelling.
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:
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:
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
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 following questions:
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.