Relieving Pain from Rug Burn

by April Reinhardt
(last updated September 5, 2008)

Do you have kids who like to roughhouse indoors? While on your knees and elbows, do you play with your dog in the middle of the living room floor? Or perhaps you're the IT person at work, and your job involves crawling around on the carpet all day running network cable. Skin-to-surface friction contact of any kind can result in rug burn.

Most often we think of rug burn in conjunction with sliding across carpeting. But rug burn is actually a burn-like injury caused by the friction of rubbing bare skin against any rough surface. I recall playing on a vinyl-tiled playroom floor when I was seven years old, wearing shorts and walking on my knees from one end of the room to the other, and getting bad rug burns on both knees. The constant friction of skin-to-surface rubbed the top layer of skin from my knees, resulting in rug burn.

Rug burn is characteristic of first-degree burns, in that the skin turns red, may involve slight swelling and itching, and is sore and sensitive to the touch. Some more serious rug burns involve other layers of skin, leaving an open, moist sore.

Oftentimes rug burns are not treated because they are viewed as minor injuries. But as with any burn, there is pain involved and a slight risk of infection, since one or several layers of skin have been exposed. There are several things you can do to relieve rug burn pain:

  • Never apply ice to a rug burn. Instead, run cold water over the burn for at least five minutes.
  • Apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment to the burn, but do not bandage it. Keep the injury site dry at all times, patting dry after bathing, and reapplying antibiotic ointment as necessary.
  • Do not wear clothing over the burn, as further fabric friction will exacerbate it. If possible, keep the burn exposed to promote healing. If you must wear clothing over the burn, or if your bedding rubs against the burn, place sterile gauze over it and tape it in place with first aid tape until you can expose the injury to air again.

As with all first-degree burns, there are products that you should never use to treat them, and those things are:

  • Ice
  • Lotion
  • Powder
  • Baby oil
  • Scented products containing alcohol
  • Butter

Using such products will not promote healing and, in fact, will hinder the cure. If a rug burn doesn't scab over and continues to fester after two weeks, seek immediate medical advice.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...

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