Scrapes (Abrasions)

What are scrapes?

A scrape, or abrasion, is an area of skin that has been scraped during a fall (for example, a floor burn or skinned knee).

How can I take care of my child?

  • Cleaning the scrape

    First, wash your hands. Then wash the wound thoroughly for at least 5 minutes with warm water and soap. The area will probably need to be scrubbed several times with a wet gauze to get all the dirt out. You may have to remove some dirt particles (for example, gravel) with a tweezers. If there is tar in the wound, it can often be removed by rubbing it with petroleum jelly, followed by soap and water again. Pieces of loose skin should be cut off with sterile scissors, especially if the pieces of skin are dirty. Rinse the wound well.

  • Antibiotic ointments and dressing

    Apply an antibiotic ointment and cover the scrape with a Band-Aid or gauze dressing. This is especially important for scrapes over joints (such as the elbow, knee, or hand) that are always being stretched. Cracking and reopening at these sites can be prevented with an antibiotic ointment, which keeps the crust soft. Cleanse the area once a day with warm water and then reapply the antibiotic ointment and dressing until the scrape is healed.

  • Pain relief

    Because abrasions can hurt badly, give acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) as needed.

When should I call my child’s healthcare provider?


  • There is any dirt or grime in the wound that you can’t get out.
  • A large area of skin has been scraped off.
  • The scrape looks infected (red streaks, draining pus, etc.).

Call during office hours if:

  • Your child hasn’t had a tetanus booster in over 10 years.
  • The scrape doesn’t heal in 2 weeks.
  • You have other questions or concerns.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2009-06-19
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.

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