How to Treat a Skinned Knee At Home, and When to Seek Help

What to expect from a skinned knee

Deeper wounds often require medical treatment, such as stiches or a skin graft.

Skinned knees can sting or hurt. They may look bright red with scraped areas, or have the appearance of an open wound. They may also bleed.

Deeper wounds may expose the interior structure of the knee, such as bone and tendons. Dirt or gravel can sometimes be visibly embedded in a skinned knee and must be removed.

It’s important to properly clean and care for a skinned knee to promote healing and prevent infection.

Read on to learn how to manage this type of injury and when to seek help from a medical professional.

How to treat a skinned knee at home

If your injury only affects the surface of the skin, you can treat it at home. To treat a skinned knee:

  • Wash your hands before you tend to the wound.
  • Gently cleanse the injured area with cool, running water to remove any surface debris.
  • Determine if the wound has embedded objects in it. If there’s dirt or debris in the wound that can’t be easily removed, seek help from a medical professional.
  • Place pressure on the wound with a clean gauze bandage to help stop the bleeding. If the wound is bleeding heavily and does not stop with firm pressure, call your doctor. Also seek help if, after applying pressure, the bleeding is too heavy to see the extent of the wound.
  • Use warm water and mild soap to gently clean around the wound and rinse the area well. Try to avoid getting much soap in the wound.
  • Gently apply a thin layer of topical, antibiotic cream or petroleum jelly to the area.
  • Apply a gauze bandage, adhesive bandage (Band-Aid), or other clean covering over the wound.
  • Leave the wound covered for 24 hours and then remove the bandage to examine it for signs of infection (see signs below). If there’s no infection present, place a fresh bandage on the skinned knee. Repeat daily until it’s completely healed.
  • If the wound starts to scab and sticks to the bandage when you try to remove it, soak the area with warm water to help ease the bandage off. Do not pull, as this may pull off the scab, and delay healing.
  • Do not pick at the scab once it starts to form.

How long does it take to recover?

A minor skinned knee may take one to two weeks to fully heal. The wound is considered fully healed and no longer susceptible to infection once it’s closed and any scabbing has fallen off naturally. The area may continue to look pink or pale for several weeks longer.

It’s important to continue to keep the area clean and to change the bandage daily to eliminate the risk of infection. Infection will require additional treatment and delay healing.

If a scab forms, it’s important to avoid picking at the scab. Scabs are a form of natural bandage that your body produces in response to an injury. Scabs typically fall off within two weeks when they’re no longer needed to protect the skin underneath.

What are the signs of an infection?

It’s important to decrease the risk of infection in a skinned knee. If you think your knee has become infected, call your doctor.

Signs of infection include:

  • a fever
  • foul odor coming from the wound
  • pus or discharge
  • swelling
  • the area feels warm to the touch
  • healing is not taking place
  • the wound looks as if it has gotten worse
  • increasing amounts of pain

Another, less common complication, is a bacterial infection, called tetanus. If you’re concerned that the skinned knee came in contact with something rusted or dirty, including dirt, you may need a tetanus shot, especially if you’ve not had one in the past five years. Tetanus is a potentially serious condition.

When to seek help

Seek medical help for a skinned knee if any of the following occur:

  • the knee does not respond to at-home treatment
  • the knee appears to be infected
  • the wound is deep or does not stop bleeding easily
  • you see inside the wound what appears to be fat, bone, or any other internal structure
  • you’re concerned about tetanus

The takeaway

Skinned knees are a common form of injury and they can vary in severity. Minor scrapes can be treated at home. More serious wounds should be treated by a doctor.

It’s important to decrease the risk of infection by keeping the skinned knee clean and covered.

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