What is road rash?

Road rash is the term used for a skin abrasion that happens when your skin is scraped against something rough, like the road. This is a common injury for cyclists as the wound occurs when you fall from a bike and slide along the road.

The affected area may look like a large scratch and there may be some bleeding. Even though it’s painful, road rash is not usually serious as it heals within a couple of weeks.

However, it’s essential to treat a road rash injury properly so you can avoid wound infection and scarring.

How does road rash happen?

Falling off your bike will likely lead to road rash because the outer skin tissue is ripped away by the asphalt as you fall down. The injury can become serious if you fall at high speed or on a really sharp surface. In this case, the injury can take off several skin layers and medical treatment will be required for correct healing.
Back to top

How to treat road rash?

Home care should be enough in most cases of road rash. It’s essential to take care of the wound, clean it as soon as possible and remove any foreign bodies or bacteria that might be in there. 

By taking care of the wound regularly you can prevent infection and additional damage to your body. Follow these steps to treat a road rash injury properly:

1) Wash your handsBefore cleaning the wound, it’s necessary for your hands to be clean so you don’t transfer any bacteria or other substances to the wound and cause infection.

2) Gently clean the woundUse our cleansing Wound Spray or lukewarm water to clean the wound and the affected area. If you notice any foreign objects try to carefully remove them. Don’t scrub the injury with a lot of pressure as this could cause further damage and bleeding. If you want to learn more about how to clean a wound read here.

Wound spray
The wound cleansing spray protects against infection and cleans the wound

3) Apply a dressingCover the wound with a dressing to keep it protected. There have been many discussions about whether you should let the wound scab over or apply a plaster, but according to the research, keeping a wound moist helps heal the wound faster and prevents road rash.

Our Elastoplast Fast Healing plaster speeds up the healing of a road rash wound by up two times compared to wound dry healing. Keep it on the wound for several days for better results. Its waterproof and breathable material will cover and protect the wound against external influences.

4) Apply antibiotic ointment - this will give the perfect cleaning to the wound. Killing any bacteria that have come one contact with the wound will prevent infection and act as a moisturiser. Be gentle when you apply the ointment to not cause more bleeding.

5) Change the bandage daily: Regular plasters should be changed daily for hygiene reasons. If you feel that the bandage is getting wet and dirty quicker than expected then you need to change it more frequently. Find out how to painlessly remove plasters here.

6) Look for a possible infectionIf you feel the pain worsening over time, notice reddening or you have a fever, you should see a doctor who may prescribe antibiotics.

Skin cut
An infected wound can be caused by bacteria entering your skin and by not proper care and cleaning.

Medical treatment for serious road rash injuries

  • X-rays to check for foreign objects and additional injuries like broken bones
  • A tetanus vaccine
  • Surgery to remove foreign objects like gravel or small rocks
  • Deep cleansing of the affected area
  • IV or oral antibiotics to prevent infection
Back to top

How long does it take for road rash to heal?

The time it takes for road rash to heal depends on how serious the wound is and how well the wound has been treated.

Minor road rash wounds will usually take a few days or a week to heal as they are grazes. However, if the injury is deep and damages nerves, surgery or medical treatment is needed. If you are a cyclist you may have to deal with one of these in case of a bike crash and the wound might become a scar.

How to prevent road rash?

Cycling accidents are really common, both in the winter when the roads are slippery and in the summer when riders’ clothing may not be the safest to use for cycling.

Protective clothing and equipment are the best ways to keep cycling safe and prevent injuries or road rash. However, it’s better to consider the below steps if you want to prevent road rash when you cycle.

  • Helmet with a face shield. A helmet should be your priority as it not only prevents serious head and neck injuries, but the face shield also prevents facial wounds.

  • Leather jackets, pants and riding suits. Durable and resistant clothing, like leather or nylon pants and jackets can work as a protective and effective layer against the asphalt.
Man cycling with safe cycling equipment
  • Elbow and knee pads protect the joints of your arms and legs. This equipment can keep you safe from sand, rocks, and gravel which can lead to road rash injuries.
  • Protective gloves are made of an abrasive-resistant material like leather. Gloves are also something that you need to consider to protect the sensitive palms of your hands from scrapes and cuts. Use the correct size gloves otherwise, your grip may be limited.
  • Strong and tough boots that fit over the ankle are the safest options against road rash on the ankles and feet.

Summary

Road rash is not a serious injury, but it can become one if the cycling conditions are not the best and if you don’t follow the treatment steps above. You need to be gentle with the wound and clean it carefully. This is the most important step of the process that will keep out infections.

If your wound does not improve after a long time and if you notice any infection, visit your doctor for a full evaluation of the wound and treatment options.
Back to top
Please note that, although these were compiled with great care, the tips and advice given on this website by no means substitute medical advice and treatment. If you have or suspect a health problem, consult a doctor and follow medical advice regardless of what you have learned on this website.

Always read carefully and follow the instructions for use or the product leaflets. For further information about our products, please contact us via email at ConsumerRelationsUK@Beiersdorf.com.