A scab is a crusty protective barrier formed over a wound or damaged skin. When there is an injury to your first line of defense—your skin—your body responds immediately by clotting the blood and killing infectious organisms. It does this by sending platelets (thrombocytes), fibrin, and proteins known as clotting factors to the wound site. These combine to create a blood clot. Once the flow of blood has been stopped, your body begins building a scab. The scab forms in a few hours as a sort of temporary skin to act as a barrier and to protect the repairs going on underneath. In most cases, the repairs go well and the white blood cells (lymphocytes) are able to keep out infections. But sometimes an infection occurs and you have to give your body a hand. I am sure you have heard to never pick a scab. Well, as with anything, there is an exception to the rule.
Picking the scab will increase your chances of getting an infection. If you do pick the scab, make sure to put some antibiotic cream on it and let it dry out so a new scab can form. Don’t cover the wound unless it is already infected and there is pus (white gooey stuff) coming out.
If you pick your scab, you should not only expect it to take longer to heal but you should expect a nice big scar to show up after it finally does heal. To fight the picking urge, use an anti-itch cream to satisfy your itch. If you do get scars from your persistent scab picking, read this article on how to get rid of scars.
Best Ways to Get Rid of Scabs
Getting rid of a scab on an infected wound is not an easy or pain-free process. Once your wound becomes infected, it may become necessary for you to remove the scab to get the pus out. Your body is fighting the infection as best it can, but it needs all the help it can get. In order to remove the scab, you will want to moisten it by washing it with soap and water. Or you can also use diluted vinegar with a ratio of 1 to 24 vinegar to water. Soak a clean cloth with the solution and place it on the scab. Once the scab has softened, wash your hands with soap and water and peel the scab off slowly. Wash the sore with soap and water and use topical antibiotics to fight the infection. If the infection gets really bad, go see a doctor.
Don’t pick the scab off. As long as your wound is not infected you will want to leave the scab right were it is. I know it itches. To relieve the itch, try using an anti-itch cream. The scab is like temporary skin. And as you know, skin keeps you healthy by keeping out potential infections. There is huge repair process going on under your icky little scab and they don’t want you coming along and setting them back a few more days. Imagine your wound’s repair process is like building a tower of cards. Every time you pick your scab, you are effectively knocking down the unfinished tower of cards and opening up possibilities for worse invasions.
Antibacterial topical ointments aid the immune system in defending your body against infections. Even if you don’t have an infection it might not be a bad idea to use some sort of antibacterial topical ointment (like Neosporin, sold at Amazon). But you should still be washing the sore at least five times a day with soap and water. If you use ointment, make sure you spread it evenly and don’t leave big gobs of it on the wound. Excess ointment on the scab is just gonna soften your scab and slow heal time. The ointment is targeting any bacteria on the outside of your scab; your body takes care of the inside stuff. Also make sure you let the scab dry each time you wash it or treat it. Scabs need to be dry to work properly.
Don’t cover the scab with anything. The only time a wound should be covered is if it’s bleeding, oozing, or infected. Otherwise, you just have to keep the scab clean and dry. Scabs don’t work unless they are dry. When scabs get wet, they begin to fall apart and tear, which allows bacteria to get in and cause major problems. So, even though it seems like you need to keep it covered, you won’t unless you want to give yourself more problems. If the scab is on your face, do not under any circumstances put make-up on it. This in all likelihood will add to your potential scarring. If you have to cover a scab, only use a bandage and keep it on for only a few hours at a time.
It takes time for your body to heal. As you have probably gathered thus far, there is very little to be done about getting rid of a scab short of what your body is already doing. With this in mind, it is important to take care of your body by eating a balanced diet and drinking plenty of water. There are many supplements and vitamins that can give your immune system a little help. Immune system boosters include vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, folic acid, melatonin, calcium, fish oil, Garlic, and green tea.
Scabs are just one of those things that we have to live with. That does not mean that we should just sit back and wait for it to fall off. Your daily task list for dealing with a scab is as follows:
- Each day inspect your scab for signs of infection. Is the scab changing color, getting puffy or oozing at all? Is the skin around the scab tender, red, or warm to the touch? These are signs of an infection that needs to be dealt with.
- Wash your scab several times a day with soap and water. If you have decided to use an ointment, apply it as directed. Keep the sore dry by letting it breathe after washing.
- Eat a balanced meal and take vitamins and nutritional supplements. Studies done by real doctors have shows that taking daily vitamins and nutritional supplements can and do help your body’s immune system. So, it’s more than just hippie talk now. I know it’s hard to admit that the hippies were right, but it will be OK. They’re still hippies.
- Last of all, don’t pick the scab unless it becomes infected. Picking will just make the scar more noticeable.