Road Rash

Road rash is a common term for multiple skin scrapes (abrasions) that occur during a bicycle or motorcycle accident, or even any fall  when you slide across a rough surface. Treatment depends on how large and deep the abrasion is. Because of the strong forces involved in your accident, it is important that you watch for any new symptoms that might be a sign of hidden injury.

It is common for not only the abrasion to hurt a little, but to also have pain in the general area of the injury because it has been bruised.

It is important to observe the wound closely for the signs of infection.  These include:

  • Increasing redness or swelling around the wound

  • Increased warmth of the wound

  • Worsening pain

  • Red streaking lines away from the wound

  • Draining pus

Home care

Most abrasions heal within ten days. It is important to keep the abrasions clean while they initially start to heal. However, an infection may occur even with proper care, so watch for early signs of infection (above).

  • If a bandage was applied and it becomes wet or dirty, replace it with a clean one. Otherwise, leave it in place for the first 24 hours, then change it once a day and clean as follows:

    • Wash the area with soap and water to remove all the cream/ointment. You may do this in a sink, under a tub faucet or shower. Rinse off the soap and pat dry with a clean towel.

    • If your bandage sticks to the wound, soak it in warm water until it loosens.

    • Reapply antibiotic cream/ointment according to your healthcare provider's instructions. This will prevent infection and help prevent the bandage from sticking.

    • Cover the wound with a fresh non-stick bandage.

  • A severe vehicle accident can be emotionally upsetting. Take time to rest and adjust to what has happened. Talking to others about your feelings can help reduce anxiety and fear.

  • It is common for the abrasion to hurt a little, and to feel sore and tight in your muscles the following day. However, more severe pain should be reported.

  • For pain you can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen, unless you were given a different pain medicine to use. Talk with your healthcare provider before using these medicines if you have chronic liver or kidney disease, or ever had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding, or are taking blood thinner medicines. Aspirin should never be used in anyone under 18 years of age who is ill with a fever. It may cause severe liver damage.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider or as advised.

If X-rays or CT scans were done you will be notified if there is any change that affects treatment.

Call 911

Call  911 if any of these occur:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Confused or trouble arousing or speaking

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

  • Rapid heart rate

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of the following occur:

  • Headache or vision problems

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Dizziness or vertigo

  • New or worsening neck, back or abdominal pain

  • Increasing pain, redness or swelling around the wound

  • Stiff neck or trouble swallowing (signs of possible tetanus infection)

  • Pus coming from the wound

  • Fever of 100.4ºF (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

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© 2000-2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.