Ways to help scabs heal
A scab protects a wound while it heals. Keeping a wound clean and covering it with a layer of petroleum jelly, such as plain Vaseline, can retain moisture and prevent the wound from scabbing over.
When a wound dries out and a scab forms, the healing process takes longer. Also, a person may find the cosmetic outcome less appealing.
Some people find scabs unpleasant or annoying, and the area around the scab may feel itchy or uncomfortable. However, it is important not to pick a scab off.
In this article, we list eight ways to help wounds with scabs heal faster. We also describe how to reduce discomfort and the risk of scarring.
The following tips can help get rid of scabs:
1. Keep it clean
A person can gently wash a scab with warm water and soap.
Always keep the scab and surrounding skin clean to avoid infection.
If the wound is exposed to dirt or sweat, gently wash the area with warm water and gentle soap, then carefully pat the skin dry.
Try not to touch the scab unless it is necessary.
Touching a scab increases the chances of bacteria and other microbes entering the wound.
2. Avoid picking or scrubbing at the scab
When scabs become itchy, some people scratch, scrub, or pick at them.
This can feel tempting, but it delays healing and increases the risk of scarring. It may also cause bleeding or redness.
To alleviate itchiness, try gently pressing on the scab with a clean, wet or dry cloth.
3. Apply a compress
Gently holding a warm compress against the area can increase circulation to the wound. More blood flow brings fresh oxygen and cells that promote healing.
Also, a cold compress can reduce inflammation and pain at the site of the scab.
4. Moisturize the scab
The American Academy of Dermatology recommend keeping the wound moist to help the damaged skin heal. They suggest using petroleum jelly to prevent the skin from drying out, as well as to encourage healing and reduce scar formation.
Some people also find other moisturizing products helpful, such as coconut oil or emollient cream, ointment, or lotion.
5. Only cover the scab when necessary
A physically active person may wish to cover a scab with a bandage to prevent further injury.
Once a scab has formed, a person only needs to cover it if it tears, oozes, or bleeds.
However, physically active people may wish to cover scabs if there is a risk that the scabs may be damaged, during sports or exercise, for example.
To cover a scab, apply a bandage just before being physically active and remove it afterward. If it is necessary to wear the bandage for more than a few hours, make sure to change it regularly.
A range of bandages is available for purchase online.
6. Get enough rest
Rest can help the body heal more quickly, while restricted sleep impairs immune function.
A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology indicates that even relatively modest disruptions to sleep can delay wound healing.
Although the delay may not be very significant, aiming to regularly get 7–9 hours of sleep a night can help boost the healing process.
7. Eat a balanced diet
Certain nutrients play roles in the regeneration and healing of the body's tissues. Some of the most beneficial nutrients for regeneration and healing include:
To ensure an adequate intake of these nutrients, aim to eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of:
- fruits and vegetables
- sources of lean protein, such as poultry, beans, lentils, fish, and tofu
- sources of healthy fats, such as avocado, olive oil, and nuts
- whole grains
8. Avoid cigarette smoke
A study in the Journal of Wound Ostomy & Continence Nursing suggests that smoking impairs wound healing. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarette smoke reduce oxygen flow throughout the body. Doctors call this reduction hypoxia.
According to the study, smoking also lowers the number of white blood cells that make their way to the site of the wound.
In addition, the study authors note that smoke reduces the function of lymphocytes and other cells that provide protection from infection and inflammation.
When to see a doctor
A person should seek medical advice if they are in severe pain or the scab is continuously bleeding.
Most scabs fall away on their own. However, see a doctor if a wound with a scab has any of the following characteristics:
- severe pain
- continuous oozing or bleeding
- no improvement after a few days
- gradual worsening of symptoms
- swelling that worsens
Also, see a doctor if a fever or chills develop.
When a person sustains an injury that is very deep or painful, they should seek medical aid.
It is also important to receive medical attention for wounds caused by a human bite or a dirty or rusty object. If a wound becomes infected, consult a healthcare provider.
Scabs are a healthy part of the healing process. They protect the wound from dirt and microbes and reduce the risk of infection. A scab will typically fall off within a few days to a few weeks.
A person can take steps to promote wound healing and reduce the risk of scarring. Some of these methods also alleviate any itching or discomfort that a scab causes.
If a scab is causing severe discomfort or if the wound does not begin to improve within a few days, see a doctor. Antibiotic treatment may be necessary.