Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Five Minute Medical: Friction Burns 101

before : having fun

So I went away for the weekend and came back with ruined knees. I hit my left knee on the reef while snorkeling and while riding a body board being towed by a 4WD through shallow water (super safe, I know) I took a spill and got a nasty friction burn from the sand.

after : skinned knee

This post is for people like me who prefer to Google the answer to all their problems instead of seeking out someone who is actually trained in the field. In today's lesson I'm covering the treatment of friction burns (most common tends to be from carpet/rug/grass/astroturf).

When I looked up "how to treat a friction burn" I was met with (what I considered) reasonable advice: keep it clean, put some antiseptic, leave it uncovered and let it dry. The only thing was, 36 hours later my wound would not stop weeping. I took some more advice and put tea tree oil on my battlescar before bed and slept with my leg poking out from under the sheets. In the morning my wound was finally dry! 

So I put a band-aid back on and went about my merry way...

...Until lunch time when I discovered that the band-aid I put on was not absorbent enough to hold all the pus that had again started weeping from my knee. Time to seek out a new bandage and an actual brain.

When I spoke to the pharmacist he gave me a mini human bio lesson in moist healing:

1. Burns/wounds on the knees (and elbows/other areas of the body that move) are best to be kept moist whilst healing [I know this goes against all the times we've been told to give a wound oxygen to help heal and prevent infection]. When a wound dries/scabs over it is not like skin and does not have much/any elasticity, so when you bend the joint, the scab/new skin formed splits/breaks potentially causing further damage and hindering the healing process. Seems legit.

2. Keeping the wound moist while healing (especially with a large wound - mine is approx 3cm in diameter) reduces the severity of scarring because new skin cells grow better/faster in moist conditions. Apparently being shielded by a scab isn't the best environment for skin cell regeneration.

3. Healing time is greatly reduced compared to a wound that is left open to scab over.

And a little advice from me: invest in some good (large and absorbent) dressings that will properly cover your injury so you don't end up with an unexpected mess!

This is my knee tonight, after a body pump class and indoor beach volleyball game, approximately 2 and a half days since the accident.

I've followed the pharmacist's suggestion of vaseline and a non-stick dressing so we'll see how this bad boy fares up over the next week and a bit.

**UPDATE** A week on from the photo above and my knee is looking a heck of a lot better. New skin has grown in and I no longer have to wear a bandage :)

*Disclaimer* I in no way, shape or form claim to be a medical guru - take this advice at your own risk and if shit gets real seek an actual professional.


  1. Got a pretty bad burn on a bouncy castle while at friends younger sisters bday party. We had to chaperon. So this looks like perfect advice

  2. Plz help. So just to be sure, did you cover your wound or leave it uncovered?

    1. Hi Ashley,
      Clean the wound, apply vaseline/pawpaw ointment and cover with a non-stick dressing (like the kind used for burns). Change the dressing as you need and keep it covered like this until new skin cells have grown in and there's no longer a scab. After this point you can leave it uncovered and start using bio oil/scarointment.

    2. If you leave it uncovered it will dry out and be more likely that the scab will crack with movement and take longer to heal. Hope this helps :)

    3. Thank you so much, you're a life saver, I'm in extreme pain after wounding my knee this weekend playing at the beach. I'll follow your advice :)

    4. Good luck, I hope your knee heals nice and quickly! :)


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