What is scrapes?

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Scrapes (abrasions) in children: Overview

Scrapes (abrasions) are wounds where the skin has been rubbed or torn off. Most scrapes do not go deep into the skin, but some may remove several layers of skin.

Scrapes usually don't bleed much, but they may ooze pinkish fluid. Scrapes on the head or face may appear worse than they are. They may bleed a lot because of the good blood supply to this area.

Most scrapes heal well and may not need a bandage. They usually heal within 3 to 7 days. A large, deep scrape may take 1 to 2 weeks or longer to heal. A scab may form on some scrapes.

Treating a minor scrape

Minor scrapes can be treated at home. Home treatment can prevent infection and promote healing. How a scrape heals depends on how deep it is, how large it is, and where it is on your body.

Try these tips for treating a scrape.

  • Stop the bleeding.

    Apply direct pressure to the wound.

    Nonprescription products can be applied to the skin to help stop mild bleeding of minor cuts, lacerations, or scrapes. Before you buy or use these products, be sure to read the label carefully. Follow the label's instructions when you apply the product.

    A scrape may continue to ooze small amounts of blood for up to 24 hours. It may ooze clear, yellowish, or blood-tinged fluid for several days.

  • Clean the wound as soon as you can.

    This lowers 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.)

    • Remove any splinters from the scrape before you get the splinters wet.
    • Use a large amount of water under moderate pressure (faucet at least halfway open). Washing the wound will remove as much dirt, debris, and bacteria as possible. It reduces the risk of infection.
    • If you have a water sprayer in your kitchen sink, try using the sprayer to wash the wound. This usually removes most of the dirt and other objects from the wound. Avoid getting any spray from the wound into your eyes. It may be easier to rinse a large, dirty scrape in the shower.
    • Wash the wound for 5 minutes with large amounts of clean, running water. Some nonprescription products for wound cleaning can numb the area so that cleaning it doesn't hurt as much. Be sure to read the product label for correct use.
    • Scrub gently with a washcloth. Moderate scrubbing may be needed if the wound is very dirty. Scrubbing your scrape will probably hurt and may make it bleed more. But scrubbing is needed so you can clean the wound thoroughly.
    • Don't use rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, iodine, or Mercurochrome. They can harm the tissue and slow healing.
  • Check to see if other tissues have been injured.

    These tissues include blood vessels, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, bones, and internal organs.

  • Apply a bandage, if needed.

    Most scrapes heal well and may not need a bandage. You may need to protect the scrape from dirt or irritation. Be sure to clean the scrape thoroughly before bandaging it. Cleaning reduces the chance that you'll get an infection under the bandage. Scrapes may heal with or without forming a scab.

    If you use a bandage:

    • Choose the bandage carefully. There are many products available. Liquid skin bandages and moisture-enhancing bandages are available with other first-aid products. Before you buy or use one, be sure to read the label carefully. Follow the label's instructions when you apply the bandage.
    • If you use a cloth-like bandage, apply a clean bandage when your bandage gets wet or soiled. It will help prevent infection. If a bandage is stuck to a scab, soak it in warm water. Soaking will soften the scab and make the bandage easier to remove. If available, use a nonstick dressing. There are many bandage products available. Be sure to read the product label for correct use.
    • Watch for signs of infection. If you have an infection under a bandage, you may need treatment from a doctor.
    • Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, lightly to the wound. It will keep the bandage from sticking to the wound.
  • Treat pain and swelling.

    Prop up the injured area on a pillow anytime you sit or lie down. Try to keep the area at or above the level of your heart to reduce swelling.

If you are concerned that the injury is more serious, you may need to be checked by a doctor to see if you need stitches or a tetanus shot.

Scrapes (Abrasions)

Picture of a scrape on the knee

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.

How does a scrape heal?

Most scrapes heal well with home treatment and do not scar. Minor scrapes may be uncomfortable, but they usually heal within 3 to 7 days. The larger and deeper the scrape, the longer it will take to heal. A large, deep scrape may take up to 1 to 2 weeks or longer to heal.

It's common to have small amounts of fluid drain or ooze from a scrape. This oozing usually clears up gradually and stops within 4 days. Drainage is not a concern as long as there are no signs of infection.

Healing process

The way a scrape heals depends on the depth, size, and location of the scrape. Whether a scrape heals with or without a scab does not affect the healing time or the amount of scarring.

  • When a scrape removes the outer layers of skin, new skin will form in the bottom of the wound and the wound will heal from the bottom up. This type of scrape looks pink and raw at first. As it heals, the new skin sometimes appears yellowish and may be confused with pus.
  • When a scrape removes all of the layers of skin, new skin will form on the edges of the wound, and the wound will heal from the edges in to the middle. This type of scrape looks white at first, and fat cells may be visible. This type of scrape takes longer to heal.

Scab

Some scrapes form a scab during the healing process. A well-formed scab protects the scrape from more injury and infection. Once a scab is formed, the scraped area usually remains dry and does not ooze fluid.

  • A scab that forms over an area that moves, such as a joint, may crack and a few drops of clear yellowish to pinkish fluid may ooze from the wound. A cracked scab may be uncomfortable, and an infection can develop under the scab.
  • Scabs usually decrease in size and fall off as the new skin under the scab is formed.
  • During healing, a scab may accidentally get rubbed off, which causes the wound to start bleeding again. Treat the wound and protect the area so the healing process can begin again.

No scab

Some scrapes heal without a scab.

  • While it heals the scrape may stay moist and pink and ooze fluid or small amounts of blood. Over time, the area will turn pink and shiny as the new skin forms. This usually occurs when a scrape is kept covered with a bandage and is washed regularly with soap and water to remove the scab-forming tissue.
  • If a scrape is likely to get dirty or infected or if it is not forming a scab, it is better to bandage the scrape and allow it to heal without a scab. This healing process requires more treatment, such as washing off the scab-forming tissue and bandaging the scrape regularly.

Scrapes (abrasions) in children: When to call

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness around the scrape.
    • Red streaks leading from the scrape.
    • Pus draining from the scrape.
    • A fever.
  • The scrape starts to bleed, and blood soaks through the bandage. Oozing small amounts of blood is normal.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if the scrape is not getting better each day.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.