What is an Abrasion?

An abrasion is a superficial wound to the epidermis only, which does not tend to bleed, although some abrasions may extend into the dermis and more severe abrasions may cause a layer of skin to be torn off. The word abrasion comes from the Latin word abradere, meaning to scrape away. Such wounds are caused by glancing contact with rough surfaces. They may be more painful than cuts owing to the fact that many more nerve endings are exposed. An abrasion is otherwise known by lay-persons as a scrape.

Abrasion wounds should be washed with soap and warm water, and any foreign material like dirt or grit removed. Washing is the most important thing to do, and just about everything else is optional and depends on the severity of the wound.

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Hydrogen peroxide can also be used to help with cleansing. Bandages can be used for abrasions that are oozing and antibiotic ointments such as Neosporin or Bacitracin can be used, but are optional.

Loose flaps of skin, if they are clean, can be left alone. They can help to form a natural dressing. If the skin flap is dirty, you can cut it off with very sharp scissors such as nail scissors. Such skin is dead, so you shouldn’t feel anything. If it hurts, it means you are cutting healthy live skin, thus the wrong skin!

A fairly severe abrasion to hand, with some layers of skin missing, about one hour after injury.

Pain from an abrasion can be lessened by the application of an ice pack, but wrap it in a towel. Apply it for a few minutes at a time to help with pain. Most scrapes should stop hurting fairly quickly.

Watch for signs of infection like pus, severe redness or swelling, and fever. Some redness around the wound is a normal part of healing, though.