iWOC Nursing Foundation Transforming Healthcare, One Person At A Time.

Skin Tears

Fragile skin, advanced age, use of assistive devices and adhesives, cognitive or sensory impairment, and history of previous skin tears can put you or your loved one at risk for a skin tear.

Skin Tear Prevention

  • Use caution when assisting patients with fragile skin

  • Avoid friction and shearing by using lift sheets for bed and chair mobility

  • Avoid use of soaps that cause drying

  • Apply a moisturizer daily to prevent drying and skin breaks

  • Avoid applying adhesives to the skin of at-risk patients

  • If adhesives must be used, remove gently using adhesive remover

  • If adhesives are firmly attached to the skin, consider leaving undisturbed and allowing to lift over time, clipping loose edges as needed

Skin Tear Assessment & Care

Once a skin tear has occurred, prompt care is necessary to facilitate timely healing with minimal complications i.e. scarring, infection, and deformities.

Treatment Recommendations

If the skin flap is viable (alive as evidenced by normal skin color and tone), can be approximated (put back together), and the skin tear is absent of signs of infection:

  1. Cleanse the wound with soap and water or Normal Saline.

  2. If available, apply a skin protective barrier to the skin around the wound.

  3. Approximate the edges. Use steri-strips, if available.

  4. Apply a non-adherent, absorptive dressing.

  5. Change the dressing as indicated.

If the skin flap is not viable or the skin tear is full thickness, has signs of infection, or patient has multiple skin tears, contact your doctor for instructions.

Contact your physician immediately if there are any signs of an infection. An infection can spread to the rest of the body and cause serious problems. Signs of an infected wound include:

  • Redness, tenderness, warmth, or swelling around the ulcer

  • A foul odor or pus from the ulcer

  • Fever, weakness, and confusion are signs that the infection may have spread to the blood or elsewhere in the body.

This information is for educational purposes, only.  It is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. The iWOC Foundation disclaims any liability for any decisions made based on this information.