Road rash is a common term for painful skin abrasions, scrapes, or surface burns. A road rash injury may also be referred to as a “raspberry” or “strawberry.”
When bare skin impacts a hard surface like asphalt or concrete, it can tear. The affected area will appear raw, red, and may bleed.
Such injuries can be painful at first and may take at least two weeks to heal if the road rash is minor. However, if the injury is deep enough to damage nerves and muscles, which can happen in a motorcycle accident or cycling collision, professional medical attention may be necessary.
Road Rash Causes
Road rash often happens when a person falls, is dragged, or skids over pavement or dirt. If any areas of the body contact the ground, the exposed skin is vulnerable to scrapes and tears.
Road rash injuries are more common during warm weather. People are more likely to wear less or lighter clothing, meaning they have less protection in the event of an accident.
They are also more likely to affect bony areas of the body that do not have much muscle or fat, such as the knees, elbows, and ankles.
Road Rash From a Motorcycle Accident
Road rash is a common nonfatal motorcycle injury. It can, however, appear alongside other more fatal wounds.
Motorcycle road rash is sometimes severe enough to cause infection, permanent tissue damage, and scarring. There are three types of road rash:
- First-degree road rash. This type of injury is indicated by mild scrapes, redness, light bruising, tenderness, and slight bleeding. This is a minor rash that can usually be cleaned and treated at home.
- Second-degree road rash. This is a serious rash that features bleeding, swelling, heat radiation, and may feature exposed muscles, tendons, or nerves. The wound is painful to the touch and needs prompt medical care. Scars are common.
- Third-degree road rash. The skin is gouged or flayed off, creating deep wounds, heavy bleeding, and swelling. The injury may be extremely painful, or not painful at all due to nerve damage. Bone, muscle, and nerves may be exposed, and the wound may cover more than 10 percent of the body. Do not try to touch the wound — seek immediate medical help instead. Scarring and deformity are common.
Road Rash First Aid
If you encounter someone who was thrown from their motorcycle or vehicle after a crash, there are steps you can take to treat their wounds until help arrives.
Road rash is painful, as it affects a wide area of nerve endings. Fortunately, it often looks worse than it is. Before administering first aid and treating the injury site, you must first assess the injured person’s condition.
- Stay safe. If an injured person is unconscious, do not move them. The exception to this rule is if the area is unsafe and leaving the person where they are is a bigger risk than moving them.
- Focus on the life-threatening injuries first. Make sure the injured person has a pulse and is breathing. Look for places where blood is pooling in bright red spots or spurting from a wound.
- Stop the bleeding. Road rash wounds tend to ooze blood. Applying pressure with a bandage or clean cloth is usually enough to stem blood loss.
If someone is unconscious, has trouble breathing, seems confused, or is bleeding profusely, call 911 immediately. Follow the dispatcher’s advice while you wait for emergency medical personnel.
How to Clean Road Rash
Proper home care is often enough to resolve mild cases of road rash.
Rinse with water
The best way to care for your road rash is to rinse it with soapy water. This helps clear out any dirt, debris, and bacteria that penetrated the wound. Make sure to wash your hands before treating your injury.
You may need to gently brush away any foreign materials clinging to the skin. It may also help to soak the wound in soapy water first before trying to remove the debris.
Use sterile tweezers to pull out embedded material. If there is still debris lodged deep in the skin that is difficult to reach or remove, do not pick or dig at it — have the removal done by a medical professional.
Protect the abrasion
Once the wound is clean and patted dry, cover the wound with gauze and wrap it. Dry bandages work fine but you may want to moisten the first layer with saline solution or sterile water. If you do this, make sure to cover the wet layer with gauze before wrapping. Otherwise, you might re-tear the skin.
Change out the bandages at least once a day. Watch for signs of redness, pain, and fever as these symptoms may indicate an infection. Take over-the-counter pain relievers as needed.
Do not pick at the scabs. Allow them to fall off naturally to promote healing and new skin growth. If any freshly healed skin or scars feel itchy, use lotion to soothe the irritated areas.
Get a tetanus shot
If it has been a while since your last tetanus shot, you ask your doctor or the emergency room physician if you need a booster. Tetanus is a serious bacterial infection that can affect the nervous system and become lethal.
Signs of Infected Road Rash
Road rash wounds can affect any part of the body but are usually found on the arms and legs.
The affected skin will appear inflamed. Pain and swelling, especially around the edges of the injury, will be felt immediately and may last for several days.
Because this type of injury breaks through the skin, dirt and other debris can get inside the body. This can quickly lead to an infection. Symptoms of an infected road rash wound include:
- Increased pain
- Swelling and discoloration
- Red or dark streaks in the skin leading away from the wound
- Pus or fluid draining
- Bad-smelling drainage
- Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, and body aches
- Taking longer than two weeks to heal
Infected road rash can usually be treated with oral antibiotics. Leaving an infected wound untreated can have serious health repercussions.
In rare circumstances, road rash may cause blood poisoning. This is a severe type of infection that spreads through the bloodstream, leading to septic shock.
Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that causes extremely low blood pressure and organ failure. Immediate medical attention is required to prevent complications and death.
Severe Road Rash
In most cases, road rashes are superficial injuries that can be treated at home. Take care of the wound by keeping it clean and dry, using antibiotic ointments and bandages if necessary. Within two weeks, the road rash should heal on its own.
However, if you are suffering from second- or third-degree road rash, you should seek medical attention. Signs of severe road rash include:
- Wounds on the face, hands, feet, or genitals
- Wounds that are at least three times bigger than the palm of your hand
- Excessive bleeding
- Foreign objects (glass, rocks, etc.) are embedded in the skin
- Signs of infection
- Visible muscle or bone
Like a burn injury, severe road rash may require reconstructive surgery and skin grafts. Skin grafts are taken from healthy tissue elsewhere on the body, usually the bottom or the thighs.
Your road rash injury may leave behind scars. There may also be discoloration, sometimes referred to as “traumatic tattooing,” when pigmented debris isn’t washed from the wound. Road rash scarring will look similar to burn scars.
Medical Treatment for Road Rash
The road rash healing process will depend on how deep the injury goes and how many parts of the body are affected. Road rash commonly occurs due to motorcycle accidents, so there may be additional injuries that need treatment such as broken bones and concussions.
When you go to the doctor for road rash, they assess the severity of the injury during your physical exam.
If the accident that caused the injury was serious and you are in a lot of pain, the doctor may order X-rays or other imaging tests. This allows them to check if there are any bone fractures or a foreign object is lodged under the skin.
In the rare case of infection or complication, the doctor may order blood tests and monitor your vital signs.
The healing timeline for serious road rash can take up to several weeks. To heal your road rash injury quickly, follow all of your doctor’s care instructions.
Atlanta Accident Injury Lawyers
When a motorcyclist or cyclist is knocked from their bike or a pedestrian is hit by a car, they can be left with serious injuries and complications. They may need surgery and long-term treatment to fully recover from their road rash injury.
If you’ve suffered a road rash accident caused by a negligent driver, our personal injury law firm can help get you the medical treatment you need. Gary Martin Hays & Associates advocates on behalf of injured victims to ensure their rights are protected.
If you have questions about your accident, contact our Georgia personal injury lawyers at (770) 934-8000 for a free consultation. The sooner you call, the less likely the insurance company can ignore or deny your injury claim.