Road rash is a serious health concern for athletes who ride. A simple fall from a bike can result in serious burns to the skin, which are sometimes referred to as road rash. Simply put, the name “road rash” somewhat looks like a rash, though the pain behind the looks of it can be difficult to deal with. 

Even the most minute case of road rash can hurt, it can become infected, and it can cause irreversible damage if you’re not careful with treatment. It’s not just a concern for athletes on bikes, either. Road rash affects anyone who takes a spill on the road whether they are on their bike, scooter, motorcycle, skateboard, roller blades, or much more. Many cases aren’t severe enough to require medical attention at the doctor’s office or at the hospital, but if you do have a severe case, then you will certainly want to get checked out. 

If you fall off your bike, if you are injured, if you are suffering from any road rash at all, you need to know what to do to treat the issue. The good news is, treatment is rather easy to do right at home, and chances are you might have everything you need in your bathroom’s medicine cabinet.

If it’s minor, there are a few simple treatments you can use at home to remedy the situation and feel better. If it’s serious, there are still treatments you can use at home, but there are also other considerations to keep in mind. You can never be too careful when it comes to treating road rash, and understanding the issue by educating yourself is the first step.

TREAT ROAD RASH COMPARISON TABLE

WHAT IS ROAD RASH?

Road rash is what happens when skin meets road. It’s an abrasion or a burn. When skin is scraped on a rough surface, the surface can burn the skin. You may have heard minor road rash referred to as a strawberry or a raspberry. Just as the name suggests, a case of road rash can be super painful. Along with that, road rash comes with a level of discomfort and irritation that can simply be frustrating to deal with until the skin heals. This makes movements of any sort around the infected area very difficult.

However, correct and proper treatment can help them heal faster and more efficiently. Treatment can help ease the pain, but serious abrasions and burns must be treated by a medical professional. The risk of infection is significant in this type of injury due to the nature of roads and the open skin wound.

A man's leg with abrasion

ROAD RASH COMPLICATIONS

One of the most common misconceptions about road rash is that it’s not a serious injury compared to other injuries. For example, you could break a bone or suffer a concussion when you fall off your bike, and those are automatically considered more serious injuries. However, road rash can become serious when complications arise. This is why it’s so imperative you seek treatment right away.

INFECTION

Depending on the severity of these abrasions, you could face serious infection if you don’t keep your rash under control. Your tissues, muscles, and even your bones can become exposed when you suffer from this type of injury, and it doesn’t take much for an infection to set in when this happens.

The dirt and bacteria from the ground can get into the skin and these exposed parts, and they can cause your body to develop an infection. This kind of injury is considered high-risk when it pertains to infection, and it must be treated right away.

One of the most common infections to settle into this type of abrasion is called Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection. You know it as MRSA, and it can be potentially life-threatening when it’s not properly treated. This infection is one that doesn’t stay contained to one part of the body, either. It’s fast-spreading, and it can affect anything from your lungs to your blood to your urinary trac. It can kill you if it’s not treated quickly.

SCARRING

It might not be the worst complication from an injury like this, since it won’t kill you, but scarring is a serious complication from road rash. If your abrasion is minor, chances are good you will walk away without much to worry about. However, if it’s a more serious rash, you could live the rest of your life with serious scarring in the location of your injuries if you don’t treat them properly.

EDEMA

Swelling can occur when you have an abrasion of this nature, and that swelling can lead to more serious health issues. Infections can cause fluid build-up in the areas around your injury. This fluid blocks the flow of blood to and from other areas of your body. Not only is this exceptionally painful to live with, it’s potentially deadly if it is bad enough to disrupt the function of your internal organs or your muscles.

5 WAYS TO TREAT ROAD RASH

The best way to ensure you don’t suffer from the complications of your road rash is to treat it properly from the start. The best way to treat this health problem is by seeing your doctor right away if you’re involved in a serious accident. If your rash is bad enough that you see bone, tissue, or muscles through your missing skin, see a doctor immediately. If you fell and your rash is minor, there are simple ways you can treat yourself.

1. WASH THE INJURY THOROUGHLY

The first step to treating road rash is to wash the injury. Start by washing your hands well with soap and water, or asking the person treating you to do the same. Next, you will wash the injury with a soft cloth. You do not want to rub hard or scratch the injury because you might remove more skin than you are already missing. Be gentle to avoid further damage.

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2. REMOVE ANYTHING IN THE RASH

Sometimes road rash comes with debris. It can be asphalt, rocks, or anything that happened to be on the ground where you fell. You must be very careful to remove everything from the abrasion and not leave anything behind. Debris left in the abrasion can cause further complications such as infection and pain. Tweezers are a helpful tool for doing this.

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3. USE ANTIBIOTIC OINTMENT

The next step is to use antibiotics on your injury. Over-the-counter antibacterial ointment works just fine for this type of injury. The purpose of this is to kill any bacteria that may have accessed the injury when you fell. Your job is to apply this very carefully so you don’t injure yourself further. Depending on the severity of the injury, this might sting just a bit. You must continue to apply the ointment even if it hurts.

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4. COVER YOUR RASH

Now that you have ointment on the clean rash, keep it covered at all times. Use a large bandage to cover the injury, and change the bandage several times a day. Change it any time it gets wet or dirty, but do not wear the same bandage more than 10 to 12 hours at a time. It’s important you keep your bandage fresh to prevent infection from setting it by allowing the abrasion to scab over and heal itself.

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5. CHECK YOUR INJURY REGULARLY

Each time you change your bandage, check to see that your abrasion looks good. You can wash it if you think it got dirty, and always apply more ointment when you change the bandage. You need it to scab over if you want to have any hope of seeing it improve. This kind of injury can take a while to heal, and checking it with each bandage change can help you heal faster with fewer complications.

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WHEN TO CALL THE DOCTOR

If you have road rash, you can sometimes avoid calling the doctor if you have a minor abrasion or it doesn’t appear to have any major issues right away. However, there comes a point in many situations where calling the doctor is the best and often only way to treat this type of injury. Call the doctor right away if you notice any of the following.

  • You can see your muscles
  • You can see your bones
  • There are any foreign objects lodged into the injury
  • The injury covers large portions of a limb or your body
  • There is pus coming from the abrasion
  • There is drainage coming from the injury
  • There is bleeding coming from the wound that you cannot stop

a man's shoulder with a minor abrasion.

How Long UNTIL IT HEALS?

There isn’t a specific timeframe in which road rash will heal. It all depends on the severity of the rash, your care capabilities, and a myriad of other factors. However, keeping it clean, void of infection, and healthy can help you heal in a few weeks. If your injury is more serious, it might take longer for the rash to heal. If you notice no improvement, your doctor might suggest that you consider more invasive options, such as a skin graft or other surgery.

CONCLUSION

For the most part, an injury resulting in road rash can typically be dealt with right at home. But, if you have an extreme case or fail to take care of your road rash properly afterwords, then this kind of injury can be potentially deadly if you fail to treat it correctly. However, there are numerous treatment options available to you when you encounter this kind of injury. Even if you’re not an athlete who might encounter road rash, it’s helpful to keep antibiotic ointment in your medicine cabinet along with large bandages in case you fall playing basketball in the driveway, running, or just playing outside with your kids. These injuries can happen anytime and to anyone, it’s not just something that athletes endure. Get ahead of the game by learning how to treat this injury so you are prepared when and if it ever happens.

We hope that our article on road rash has been helpful for you in terms of understanding what it is and how to deal with it. Have you or someone you know had to deal with road rash? Let us know below what it was that you did in order to heal up. Also, if you have any additional tips and tricks that you used that worked for you, please share them as well!

 

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