Symptoms and Treatment for Road Rash

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Road rash treatment is similar to caring for burns. In both cases, the injury causes a loss of the skin and that can lead to infections or dehydration from fluid loss. Road rash or friction burn are the common terms for rubbing off part or all of the skin. The medical term is skin abrasion.

Symptoms of Road Rash

Road rash is an area on the body where the skin has been scraped off. It often looks raw and might bleed a little. Road rash is usually very painful. In some cases, the depth of the road rash causes damage to nerve cells. Those victims may not have feeling—including pain—in the deepest parts of the road rash. However, the skin around the edges of the road rash will still be extremely painful.

Road Rash Treatment

Severe road rash should be seen by medical professionals. Most road rash, however, can be treated on the spot.

  1. Stay safe. If the victim is unconscious, do not move him or her unless the area is unsafe.
  2. Treat life-threatening injuries first. Road rash is usually not life-threatening, but it is scary to look at. Don't let the presence of raw, bleeding wounds distract you from making sure the victim is breathing and all dangerous bleeding (bright red and spurting) is stopped first.
  3. Stop bleeding. Usually, road rash oozes rather than gushes blood. A little pressure with a bandage should do the trick.
  4. Rinse the road rash. Rinse the road rash with soapy water—maybe under a little pressure to help get all the dirt and debris out of the wound. It may help to soak the wound in soapy water before trying to remove the debris, and you may have to gently brush stubborn debris out of the road rash. In rare cases, it may be necessary to remove debris with tweezers—if possible, that should be done by a medical professional.
  5. Cover the wound. Put gauze on the wound and wrap it to hold it in place. Dry dressings work fine. If you'd like, you can moisten the first layer of dressing with saline solution or sterile water, but don't put antibiotic ointment on road rash. If you use a layer of moistened dressings, cover that with dry gauze before you wrap it up.

    Any wound more than 3 times bigger than the palm of the victim's hand should be seen by a physician. Road rash hurts so bad, it wouldn't be a bad idea to see a doctor with a much smaller wound as well. Any road rash on the face, hands, feet or genitals should be seen by a doctor.

    Infected Road Rash

    Change dressings (take off the old dressings and replace with new ones) once per day at least and watch for infection.

    Signs of infection:

    • Increased pain after the first day
    • Swelling and increased redness
    • The wound gets hot
    • Pus or fluid draining from the wound

    If you see any symptoms of infection, have the victim see a doctor.

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    Article Sources
    • Al-Qattan, MM, et al. Friction burn injuries to the dorsum of the hand after car and industrial accidents: classification, management, and functional recovery. J Burn Care Res. 2010 Jul-Aug;31(4):610-5.