Let's not get into the reasons why I found myself crashing onto the pavement; as with any of my bike crashes, the circumstances are far too embarrassing to repeat.
But after I picked myself up and hopped around my Rockhopper repeating the mantra “sonofabitch,” it occurred to me that I should write up a piece about how to cure road rash.
Sometimes these blogging ideas come to me as easily as falling off a bike. The cleansed and treated wound is at left. It doesn't look as cool as when it was all bloody.
When I did some research on road rash, the first thing I learned is that conventional wisdom — stuff I learned when I was a kid — no longer applies. Some of the old-style treatments actually are counter-productive.
For instance, you don't want to scrub away at the road rash. In addition to hurting like hell, it can cause more damage to the skin. Also, after you adequately clean the wound, you don't want to use antibiotics. These can actually slow down healing and cause scabs. That's right, you don't need to form an itchy old scab as part of the healing process.
Here are 5 steps on treating road rash:
But first, if it's a serious abrasion, let the pros handle it. Go to an emergency room and get it cleaned and dressed there. They'll do all the nasty stuff like remove pieces of gravel, bits of clothing or dead skin. They'll also give you instructions about how to treat it. Get a tetanus shot. Otherwise:
1. Get out your road rash kit. Don't have one? If you ride a lot and are as clumsy as me, you'll need it. Here's a link to one you can buy online, Road Rash Repair Kit, or you can just buy this stuff separately and take it on rides or keep it at home.
2. Clean the wound: Squirting it down with your water bottle is not enough but a good start. You need to wash it gently with soap and water to get out the dirt when you get home. Some recommend spraying with a 0.9% solution of sodium chloride (that's salt) and dabbing with gauze. Another source suggests using antibacterial soap and cold water, which isn't as painful as hot water.
Rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide are not necessary and may actually be counter productive, as is scrubbing.
3. Dress it: Make sure you stop at the pharmacy and pick up a semipermiable dressing such as Tegaderm (3M), Bioclusive (Johnson & Johnson), or 2nd Skin (Spenco). These use a moist hydrocolloid pad. Keeping the road rash moist promotes healing, prevents infection and hastens the formation of new tissue.
Do not use antiseptics, like triple ointments. It has been found they actually harm the tissue to slow down recovery. Also, traditional bandages allow the wound to dry out, which is not a good thing.
In the photo above, I'm using 2nd Skin on my knee. There are three spots, none of which are huge, but I'm curious about the effectiveness of these hydrocolloid pads. I found this product in my local drugstore with the other bandages. It's marketed as “quickstik” or “blister pads,” so it's a little difficult to recognize it as a treatment for road rash.
4. The moist dressings are adhesive, but it you keep bicycling, you might want to wrap some paper tape around there (just watch out for more road rash). You might want to purchase a mesh sleeve to keep it in place, such as Surgilast.
5. Keep the bandage on all the time and try to keep it dry in the shower. Change every 3 to 5 days.
According to the experts, if I follow these procedures, I should have a layer of nice, new, pink skin in about 10 days.