After my failed attempt at flying during the Kelly St. Patrick’s Day 5k the other week, I was left digging dirt and UA fibers out my sizable road rash and figuring out how to best protect it. I’ve never had road rash before, so this was completely new territory for me. Like I would with any cut, I cleaned it out (and nearly fainted more than a dozen times from the pain), slathered it with enough Neosporin to cover a small child from head to toe, and put a giant BandAid on top.
If you’ve ever had a large wound on a moving joint, you probably know this – BandAids hurt! Every time you move that joint, the bandage moves across the wound, rubbing and poking that sensitive spot all the live long day. Umm, not fun!
I also tried using a sterile gauze pad with Neosporin and Rocktape as an adhesive – while that was better, it still wasn’t great. Every time I straightened my leg, the gauze would bunch up against the wound; when I bent my leg, the gauze would pull taught against the wound.
Being the nerd that I am, I spent an embarrassing amount of time researching road burn – what it should look like, what it shouldn’t look like, how to best clean it and protect it, and how to make sure I don’t end up with a giant scar (I know chicks apparently dig scars, but do guys dig scars on chicks?). I read medical journals (I told you, I’m a nerd – with access to loads of academic databases), medical-advise websites (legit ones, not Dr. Google), and athlete forums (fyi – cyclists compare road rash war stories the way runners compare chafing, blistering, and missing toenail war stories) and the common thread among all of them was this thing called Tegaderm. It’s supposed to be way better than a BandAid and not require gobs and gobs of Neosporin or any other product.
Tegaderm is a thin film that is waterproof yet highly breathable – it keeps out water, dirt, germs, and other nastiness you don’t want in a fresh wound, but allows moisture to escape and oxygen through, to help the healing process. It doesn’t come off or get nasty in the shower or while you’re working out and can be worn for up to 7 days.
So while I was laying in bed contemplating chopping off my leg (can you tell I don’t like pain?), my mom stopped at the pharmacy and picked up a box of Tegaderm for me. After taking off my BandAid, I mopped up the Neosporin, cleaned the wound with saline solution, and cleaned the surrounding skin with baby oil followed by rubbing alcohol to remove the residual gunk that BandAid tough strips tend to leave behind. Word to the wise – be extra careful with that rubbing alcohol, because it helped me find loads of teeny tiny nicks I didn’t know I had.
Choose a patch size that will leave at least 1″ of film on all sides of your would. Yes, it will likely be ridiculously huge, but it is necessary. When you take the Tegaderm patch out of it’s sterile package, and it will look like this:
The backing peels off and you’re left with a window-frame application – meaning the thin, clear film will have a white perimeter, which is what you hold on to in order to place the film. Start by gently tapping/pressing the film down on the wound itself, making sure to avoid air bubbles, moving outward from the center in order to get a nice airtight seal over the wound itself.
It may freak you out a bit to put a sticky film right on the the wound, but trust me – it all works out 🙂 It takes a little bit longer than slapping on a BandAid, but it’s totally worth it. When you get the film completely adhered, you peel off the white window-frame and are left with an nearly-invisible wound dressing.
If you’ve never used on of these before it can feel a little weird at first, but there’s no pain or discomfort – the film is so thin you barely even feel it on the wound, and it’s super flexible, so it moves with you rather than pulling on the skin. The nice thing about it is you can easily observe the health and progress of your wound without having to constantly stick and unstick a BandAid, and it offers a thoroughly-sealed dressing to keep dirt and germs out without suffocating the wound or your skin.
The only down side to Tegaderm is this – if you use it on a wet wound, the liquid will collect under the film. You and everyone else can see the liquid collecting; if you let it go too long it can feel like a teeny tiny colostomy bag attached to you. The film may need to be changed more frequently in the first few days because of this, but once the wound stops expelling liquid, one patch will easily last up to a week.
I have worn these through several runs and workouts and never had any issues with it. I barely noticed it and aside from some sweat collecting under it (yes, my knees sweat…welcome to my personal hell), haven’t had any issues with it peeling up or shifting.
When it’s time to remove it, it comes off super easily. I use a tiny bit of medical tape, which, when stuck on the corner of the patch, will gently remove it. Just gently work your way around the patch, peeling the film off in the direction of hair growth.
That’s it! I highly, highly recommend these for road rash or any other larger cuts, abrasions, incisions, or wounds you may get and need to protect. I’ve also heard they’re great for using over top of fresh tattoos. The patches can be a bit hard to find (only one pharmacy by me carries them), and a little expensive, but they are totally worth their weight in gold. They are also available with an absorbent pad for use on wet wounds. I restocked via amazon and got them for a much, much more reasonable price.
I am still wearing one on the road rash on my knee, but have been without it on my elbow, where I got a much smaller, more superficial spot of road rash, for a few days now. That spot is looking really great and doesn’t seem like it’s going to scar up or anything. Hopefully you never need these, but if you do, they’re really great.