Skin Tears Made Simple:

Most Common Questions and Answers

What are skin tears?

Skin tears are wounds that occur when fragile skin experiences trauma such as blunt force, friction, and shearing and result in the full or partial separation of the skin’s layers.

How common are skin tears?

There is limited data on the prevalence of skin tears. A recent study found that 20.8% of people over the age of 65 suffered from skin tears.

What does a skin tear look like?

According to the ISTAP classification, there are three main types of skin tears that vary somewhat in appearance. However, skin tears generally look like regular lesions or big scrapes that are distinguished by a skin flap that either covers the wound or is rolled up towards one side.

What part of the body are skin tears more likely to happen?

Skin tears can happen anywhere on the body, but are most common on the arms, hands, and lower extremities, where the skin is thinner and more fragile than other parts of the body.

How do I prevent skin tears from happening?

There are various intrinsic and extrinsic skin tear risk factors.

Why can’t I use strong adhesives for skin tears?

Skin tears typically occur in skin that is fragile due to age, meaning that it is especially vulnerable to trauma that will not normally cause injuries in healthier or younger skin. This means that the removal of strong adhesives can cause further trauma to the skin and existing wound bed.

How do I clean a skin tear?

A sterile swab dampened with either lukewarm water or saline solution can be used to gently clean a skin tear.

How do I stop my skin tear from becoming infected?

You must ensure the wound is cleaned and any bleeding is stopped. To prevent bacteria from entering the wound, make sure it is well covered with the appropriate skin tear dressings. If advised, apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment or petroleum jelly. This will help keep the wound moist and prevent infection. Please note: if you notice any redness due to these ointments, stop application immediately.

How long will it take for my skin tear to heal?

If attended to quickly and dressed correctly, skin tears are considered ‘acute wounds’ that will usually heal within the normal wound healing timeframe of approximately 4 weeks.

When should I see a doctor for a skin tear?

If you notice any of the following symptoms, it is advised you go and see your doctor:

• Pus or yellow/cloudy fluid coming from the wound.
• A soft scab which may increase in size
• Redness around the wound
• Pain
• Swelling
• Fever

Why isn’t my skin tear healing?

Wounds that do not heal or that heal slowly are known as chronic wounds. This could be down to many factors, including further trauma, poor circulation, insufficient nutrition, infection or underlying medical conditions such as diabetes. If you have followed the correct method of treatment for your skin tear yet it is still taking a long time to heal, you may require additional care.

What type of dressings should be used on skin tears?

A soft silicone wound contact layer dressing should be used directly over a skin tear. These dressings will help to maintain skin integrity and the viability of the flap, as well reducing trauma during dressing changes. An absorbent dressing is recommended to absorb any blood or exudate that may pass through the wound contact layer pores.

How do I realign the skin flap?

If the skin flap is viable, reapproximate it by gently by easing it back into place using a gloved fingertip.

How long can I leave the dressing on?

Secondary dressings should be changed daily until exudate decreases, after which they can then remain in place for up to 6-7 days.