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Scrapes (Abrasions)

What is a scrape?
A scrape, or abrasion, is an area of skin that has been scraped during a fall (for example, a floor burn or skinned knee).

How can I take care of myself?
Cleaning the scrape
First, wash your hands. Then wash the wound thoroughly for 5 minutes with warm water and liquid soap. You may need to scrub the area several times with a wet gauze to get all the dirt out. You may have to remove some dirt particles (for example, gravel) with a tweezers. If there is tar in the wound, it can often be removed by rubbing it with petroleum jelly, followed by soap and water again. Cut off pieces of loose skin with sterile scissors, especially if the pieces of skin are dirty. Rinse the wound well.

Antibiotic ointments and dressing
Apply an antibiotic ointment and cover the scrape with a Band-Aid or gauze dressing. This is especially important for scrapes over joints (such as the elbow, knee, or hand) that are always being stretched. Cracking and reopening at these sites can be prevented with an antibiotic ointment, which keeps the crust soft. Cleanse the area once a day with warm water and then reapply the ointment and dressing until the scrape is healed.

Pain relief
Because abrasions can hurt badly, take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) as needed.

When should I call my health care provider?

  • There is any dirt in the wound that you can't get out.
  • A large area of skin has been scraped off.

Call during office hours if:

  • You haven't had a tetanus booster in over 10 years.
  • The scrape looks infected (red streaks, draining pus, etc.).
  • The scrape doesn't heal in 2 weeks.
  • You have other questions or concerns.