Back Away From The Scab

Between bug bites, pimples and scabs, there are plenty of things that invite picking and scratching. The tendency to pick at scabs before they’ve fully healed is a common habit that many of us can relate to. Now you may be wondering, what is it that drives the picking?

Depending on the person, there can be a number of reasons why picking seems so enticing. These are some of the most common explanations to why many of us may have the impulse:
  • A scab or skin irritation can cause discomfort, whether its itchy or painful, picking at it can seem like an easy solution to start feeling better.
  • Some may feel like they are actually speeding up the healing process by picking away old scabs and forcing the skin to create a new protective barrier.
  • It may just be a nervous habit, like nail biting or fidgeting, it’s a reaction to stress.
  • In some cases, skin picking can be the result of skin picking disorder (excoriation). This is the result of skin picking becoming more than just a nervous habit, instead it escalates to be a more frequent and serious condition, leading to bleeding, sores and scars.
For many, itching and picking at scabs can feel like a harmless habit when in fact it can cause a number of unintended side effects. Let’s take a closer look at why picking scabs is such an important habit to break.

It’s traumatizing. When you have a cut or a scrape, your body naturally forms a protective barrier over the wound to help shield delicate skin cells. Scabs are your body’s way of indicating that your skin has not fully healed. When you remove a scab, you are traumatizing delicate skin cells that are trying to repair. In essence, you are re-injuring your wound.

Infection is more likely. With scabs, healing skin is protected from external bacteria and germs; however, without a scab, healing wounds are prone to infection. Wounds are an entry point for germs of all kinds, one of the most common being staphylococcus (staph). In some cases, staph, or other bacteria, viruses and fungi, can spread from a localized infection to a more serious infection and if left untreated, it can even lead to sepsis or gangrene.

It can be scarring. Depending on the injury or wound, scarring can be an unavoidable part of the healing process. You can add insult to injury by picking at scabs, as this traumatizes and irritates the healing area. In some cases, the skin may respond by thickening or darkening. Keep in mind, though, that scarring is a natural part of the healing process and often times, the discoloration will fade with time.

While cuts, bumps and bruises are an inevitable part of life, they don’t have to be a sore topic. If picking at scabs or skin irritations is a hard habit to break, try utilizing different techniques, such as finding a new activity to replace it with or tackling the underlying cause of the habit. Don’t forget that the best defense against infection and scarring is to properly treat and care for wounds. The experts at ChoiceOne Urgent Care can provide convenient and customized care for those cuts and bruises when they inevitably happen. You can relax knowing that your injury will be thoroughly cared for, leaving you well on your way to a speedy recovery. 


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