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Diseases & Conditions

Skin Tears

Who is at risk for developing skin tears?

People who are more likely to develop skin tears include those who:

  • use corticosteroids for an extended period of time
  • are of an advanced age
  • are immobile (bedbound, chairbound, or unable to change positions)
  • have dry skin/dehydration
  • do not have adequate nutritional intake
  • take multiple medications/have multiple disease processes

How can skin tears be prevented?

  • wear long-sleeve shirts and pants to protect your extremities
  • apply a moisturizer, especially on dry skin on arms and legs, twice daily
  • maintain adequate nutritional intake (obtain a dietary consultation if needed); also increase your fluid intake
  • have adequate light to reduce the risk of bumping into furniture or equipment
  • secure your dressings with gauze wraps, stockinettes, or other wraps rather than using tape. If you must use tape, use paper tape and remove it gently. (Mefix cloth tape may help reduce tearing while in the hospital.) To remove tape, keep the tape as close to the skin as possible, rolling it off, rather than ripping it off.

If I do get a skin tear, how should the area be cleansed?

  • Gently cleanse skin tear and surrounding skin using normal saline or wound cleanser. Do not rub the affected area.
  • Let the area air dry or pat dry the surrounding area very carefully with a soft towel.

If I have a skin tear, what type of bandage should I use?

Consider these treatment options:

  • Vaseline gauze
    • Cut a single layer of petroleum jelly gauze, leaving a one-inch border around the skin tear. Apply gauze over tear.
    • Wrap the area with a Kerlix bandage. Apply paper tape to the bandage to secure in place. Do not apply tape to the skin.
    • Change as needed before it dries to the skin tear
  • Mepilex Silicone Self-Adhesive Foam (made by Molnlycke; comes in 3 x 3, 4 x 4, 4 x 8, 6 x 6, 6 x 8, and 8 x 8 inch dressings)
    • Change at least every 5 days

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Can't find the health information you’re looking for?

This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 7/6/2005...#4277