How to Treat Road Rash

Four Parts:Determining the Extent of the DamageTreating the WoundCaring for the Wound as it HealsPreventing the Dangers of Road Rash

Have you fallen while motorcycling, biking, skateboarding, or skating and scraped a patch of skin? If so, you are suffering from a type of friction burn known as road rash. This condition can be painful, but there are steps you can take to make sure you’re alright and to start the healing process.

Part 1
Determining the Extent of the Damage

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    Move to a safe area, if possible. If your accident happens in a dangerous area, such as in the middle of a road, you should move yourself to a safer area (off the road) if you are able to. That way, you will reduce the danger of further injury.
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    Stabilize life-threatening injuries. Ensure that you (or the injured person) can move freely, and that there are no broken bones. If either is the case, then stop immediately and call or direct someone nearby to call your local emergency number.[1]
    • If a head injury has occurred, check for a concussion, and seek medical care immediately.
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    Assess the severity of the wound. If you cannot see the wound well yourself, ask someone for help. Call the emergency number in your area if the wound[2]
    • Is deep enough to see fat, muscle, or bone.
    • Is spurting blood. If it is, put pressure on the wound with your hands, or clothing or other material while you wait for help. This will help to slow the bleeding.
    • Has edges that are jagged and far apart.
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    Determine if you have other injuries. Some damage may be hidden below the skin, where you cannot see signs of it. If you were knocked unconscious, feel confused, have limited range of motion, or extreme pain, consider seeing a doctor immediately for medical assistance.

Part 2
Treating the Wound

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    Wash your hands before treating the wound.[3] You do not want to cause an infection when treating your road rash, so wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before starting to take care of it. If you want extra protection, you can also put on disposable gloves before starting to clean the wound.
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    Stop any bleeding. If there is any bleeding on your wound, stop it by applying pressure on the site.
    • Hold a clean cloth or gauze over the bleeding portion of the wound, and apply pressure for a few minutes.
    • Change the cloth or gauze if it becomes soaked with blood.
    • If the bleeding does not stop after 10 minutes, contact a doctor, as stitches or other treatment may be required.[4][5][6]
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    Rinse the wound. Let cool water run over your wound, or pour it over it. Get someone else to help if you cannot see or reach the wound site. Do this long enough to make sure that the water has flowed over the entire area, and washed away any loose dirt and/or debris.[7][8]
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    Wash the wound. Use antibacterial soap and water to clean around the wound, but try not to get soap in the wound itself, as this can cause irritation.[9][10] This will help to wash away dirt and bacteria and keep away infection.
    • Hydrogen peroxide and iodine were traditionally used to disinfect skin wounds.[11] However, hydrogen peroxide and iodine can actually damage living cells, so medical professionals now advise that you should not apply them to a wound.[12][13][14]
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    Remove any debris. If anything is stuck in the wound, like dirt, sand, splinters, etc., use tweezers to carefully remove this material. First clean and sterilize the tweezers by rubbing them with a cotton ball or gauze soaked in isopropyl alcohol.[15][16] Rinse with cool water once the debris is removed.
    • If dirt or other material is lodged so deep in the wound that you cannot get it out, contact a doctor.[17]
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    Gently pat dry. Once you have rinsed and washed the wound, gently use a clean cloth or towel to dry the area. Patting rather than rubbing it dry will help you avoid unnecessary pain.
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    Apply an antibiotic cream, especially if the wound was dirty. This can deter infection and help the wound as it heals.[18][19]
    • There are numerous types of antibiotic creams and ointments, containing different active ingredients or combinations (bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxin, for example).[20] Always carefully follow the directions provided with your cream regarding the amount to use and method of application.
    • Some triple-antibiotics, such as Neosporin, contain neomycin, which can cause contact skin allergies. If you notice redness, itching, swelling, etc. after using one of these products, stop using it and switch to one containing polymyxin or bacitracin, but no neomycin.
    • If you cannot use a topical antibiotic cream for any reason, then apply petroleum jelly or Aquaphor to the wound area. This will keep the site moist as it heals.
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    Cover the wound. Make sure to cover your wound with a bandage to protect it from dirt, infection, and irritation from clothing during the time it needs to heal. A non-stick bandage such as a Telfa pad is preferable, or sterile gauze may be held in place with tape or an elastic band.[21][22]
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    Elevate the wound. Keep the wound elevated at or above the level of your heart as much as possible will help to reduce swelling and pain. This is most beneficial in the first twenty-four to forty-eight hours after your accident, and is especially important if your wound is severe or infected.[23]

Part 3
Caring for the Wound as it Heals

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    Apply fresh bandages as needed. Change the bandage covering your wound daily, or more frequently if it becomes wet or dirty.[24][25] Wash any dirt away from the area using water and an antibacterial soap, as before.
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    Reapply antibiotic cream daily.[26] Do this when you change the bandage. While this alone doesn’t make the wound heal faster, it may help reduce your chance of infection. It will also keep the wound from drying out, which can cause scabbing and possible scarring.[27]
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    Elevate the wound. Continuing to keep the wound elevated at or above the level of your heart as much as possible will help to reduce swelling and pain. This is especially important if your wound is severe or infected.[28]
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    Manage any pain. Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen if you have pain from wound, unless your doctor directs otherwise.[29]
    • Ibuprofen is also an anti-inflammatory and may help reduce any swelling.
    • If the skin around the wound is dry or itchy, use a moisturizing lotion to relieve this discomfort.
    • Wear clothing that will not irritate the wound area. If possible, wear clothing that will not rub against the road rash site while it heals. For example, if the wound is on your arm, try to wear short sleeves; if it is on your leg, try to wear shorts. This will make you more comfortable.
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    Eat and drink properly. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids (approximately six to eight eight-ounce glasses of fluid, especially water, per day), and to eat healthy foods while you are healing. Staying hydrated and nourished will aid the process.[30]
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    Take it easy. You will need to rest the wound area as it heals. For example, if the wound is on your leg, you will need to avoid vigorous activities like running and climbing. Avoiding overexertion of the wound area will help it heal.
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    Pay attention to how the healing is progressing. If you take care of the wound, then generally road rash should heal within two weeks.[31]
    • Exactly how fast your wound will heal depends on a number of factors like your age, nutrition, whether or not you smoke, your stress level, if you have an illness, etc. Moreover, antibiotic creams will only reduce your risk of infection, not actually heal the wound faster. If you wound seems to be healing abnormally slowly, check with a medical professional, as it could be a sign of something more serious, like an illness.[32]
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    Contact a doctor if things seem to get worse, or if the wound appears infected. You will need expert attention: [33][34][35][36]
    • If there is dirt or other foreign material in the wound that you can’t get out of it.
    • If the wound site becomes more red, swollen, warm, or painful, as these can be signs of infection.
    • If red streaks radiate from the wound.
    • If the wound site drains pus, especially if it smells foul.
    • If you have flu-like symptoms (fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, etc.).

Part 4
Preventing the Dangers of Road Rash

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    Wear protective clothing and gear. Wearing proper protective clothing like long sleeves and pants when you are able to will help guard your skin against road rash. If you are participating in activities prone to injury, wear appropriate guards. Using protective gear will greatly increase the chances of you just brushing yourself off and bouncing back.[37][38]
    • For example, consider elbow, wrist, and knee pads when engaging in sports such as skateboarding and skating.
    • Wearing a helmet will protect your head from injury in these and other activities, such as biking and motorcycling.
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    Practice safety. Know how to properly use any equipment related to your activities, such as motorcycles, bicycles, etc. In addition, avoid trying dangerous stunts and other reckless acts. Being careful on the road is an easy way to reduce the risk of road rash.
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    Make sure your tetanus immunizations are up-to-date. Most road rash wounds have been exposed to dirt, and perhaps metal and other debris. This can mean there is a risk of tetanus infection (lockjaw). Most adults should get a tetanus booster shot if it has been more than five years since their last shot and they get a dirty wound. See your doctor about getting one as soon as possible if you have road rash.[39]

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Categories: First Aid and Emergencies