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:
- Stop the bleeding with direct pressure to the wound.
- Determine if other tissues, such as blood vessels, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, bones, or internal organs, have been injured.
- Determine if you need to be evaluated and treated by a doctor.
- Clean the wound and remove any dirt or debris to prevent infections (both bacterial skin infections and tetanus, or lockjaw), decrease scarring, and prevent "tattooing" of the skin. (If dirt or other debris is not removed from a scrape, the new skin heals over it. The dirt can then be seen through the skin and often looks like a tattoo.)
- Determine if you need a tetanus shot.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.