How to Treat Rope Burn

How to Treat Rope BurnRope burns are classified as a friction burn, since they involve abrasion of the top layer of skin and thermal burning due to the friction and heat produced by the speed and pressure of the rope rubbing the skin. By assessing the depth and size of a burn, keeping the wound clean and treating it quickly, rope burns can be dealt with properly. Since anything, including rope, which abrades the skin can contain the tetanus bacteria, it is vital to keep up with tetanus vaccinations if your activities could involve friction burns.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Clean water
  • Antibiotic cream or salve
  • Clean gauze or gauze bandage
Step 1
Assess the wound for size and depth. A first degree burn with abrasion is most common and will cover a small area and only damage surface skin. Deeper wounds will be second degree burns with some abrasion and will damage skin to the depth of the sweat gland and hair follicle. For burns larger than three inches in diameter or deeper than the upper layers of skin and hair, emergency attention is recommended. If an emergency is warranted, clean and cover the wound and get care as soon as possible.
Step 2
Clean the rope burn by running clean water over it. Hydrogen peroxide is not recommended, but rinsing is essential to remove bacteria and any bits of rope, dirt or clothing from the wound. If the abrasion is superficial and not painfully deep, squirting water with slight pressure can help clean it.
Step 3
Apply a topical antibiotic cream or lotion to the surface of the rope burn, and if needed, give the injured person acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain and inflammation. Silver sulfadiazine, which is available with a doctor's prescription, is a very effective treatment for topical burns.
Step 4
Cover the wound with clean gauze or a gauze bandage. Air circulation is important for burn healing, but some moisture must be maintained. If nothing else is available, a cloth bandage made from a clean tee-shirt or sock can provide coverage.
Step 5
Keep the wound clean and dry as much as possible, and refrain from stressing the tissue further with pressure. If showering or bathing, re-dress the wound with clean bandages afterward.

Tips & Warnings

Keep a first aid kit in the car, or in your backpack or daypack. Make sure you have antibiotic cream or salve, gauze and bandages, and some form of pain/inflammation medication.
Keep a small plastic bottle of sterile water on hand, that can be used for wound and eye irrigation, and is separate from drinking water. Do not use river or lake water, or water from a container someone has been drinking from unless absolutely necessary, as this can infect the wound.
Avoid rope burn by wearing gloves and long sleeves and pants where possible.
When handling rope avoid becoming tangled in it by keeping the loops away from feet.
Do not grab a rope that is being pulled away by a vehicle, watercraft, or person unless your life depends on it.

Article Written By Ann R.B. Summers

Ann R.B. Summers writes professionally about food, science, nature, nutrition, fitness and healthy living. She is the author of "Healthy Lunch, Healthy Mind," and has regular articles in "Food and Spirits." She has a B.A. in anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis and is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Society for Professional Journalists.

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