One of many things which slows down wound healing is scab picking. Most of us might be easily tempted to do this as picking scabs is likely to minimize itching caused by the healing process. In fact, this is definitely not a thing recommended in wound healing process, since it may cause worse scarring and undo the healing progress. In the first place, we need to know how a wound heals and why it causes severe itches which puts us into a scab picking dilemma.
How a wound heals
Our body has its ability to heal almost any wounds. There are surely various things which can influence how fast or slow this healing process can be. These inducing factors consist of those internal and external factors within individuals. Despite the difference of wound healing process among individuals, there are three major steps which are undergone by almost everyone during wound healing.
- Bleeding stage, where the body excretes certain fluids and substances to repair the damage occur after injury. Thus, bleeding includes in an important wound healing stage with a purpose to clean the wounded area.
- Inflammatory stage, where the wound swells and excretes fluids. This is the body’s way of cleansing the affected area and a sign that white blood cells react to combat possible bacteria which may cause infection and also repair the skin bed.
- Tissue re-growth stage, where new skin cells are formed, damaged blood vessels are repaired, and tore tissues are re-growing. This is also a phase when scabs are formed to cover the very fragile new skin cells.
- Scarring stage, where the scabs begin to fall off and the wounded area turns red and is accompanies by itching. Scars, which are the excess of collagen produced during wound healing process, are formed. These scars have a different texture and flexibility from its surrounding skin.
Why does a wound itch when it heals?
You might have long been told that a wound which is itching is actually healing. This is among the most well-known old wives’ tales which is transferred over generations. However, this belief is in fact, supported by science through series of researches over years. Wounds—despite being small or big tend to itch when healing. Mostly, severe itchiness happens during remodeling or maturation stage. The itchiness comes from the reaction of sensitive nerve cells beneath the skin which react to released chemicals and stretching skin and wound tissues. It is newly researched that our skin is equipped with some nerves which are sensitive to itchiness. When the skin, especially the injured one is stimulated by strange stimulators, such as scratches or bugs, these itch sensitive nerves send a signal to the spinal cord. Our brain, thus, responds to this signal by producing itchiness which promotes reaction from your hands to sweep the disturbing agent away from the wound. These nerves are also sensitive to chemicals, so that it will also send an itch sensation when strange chemicals our body produces to close the opened skin sticks to the wound. This itchiness will inevitably tempt us to scratch the wounded area, which at this stage is normally covered by scabs. However, scratching the wound or picking the scabs will tear the forming new skin cells, so that the healing area will likely to be re-damaged. You need to be very patient in this stage until the itching start to stop.
Minimize itching during wound healing
Itching sensation felt during wound healing can be agonizing. Yet, this healing wound is definitely sensitive during this phase. Therefore, you need to avoid the temptation to pick the scabs, although it is able to minimize the itching sensation. Instead, there are some other ways you can do about this in order to minimize severe itching.
- Moisture the surrounding skin to prevent it from over drying. Over-dried skin may cause the wound to get pulled, which causes the nerves to send itchy sensation.
- Cool compress the wound. This will minimize the effect of inflammation and thus, calm your skin cells. Cool compress is likely to numb the infecting bacteria, so that nerve reaction to strange objects is also minimized.
- Wash the surrounding skin with warm water and mild soap. Do not use hot water, which will tear your skin tissues. Lukewarm water is the best one, since it has an ability to immobilize the infecting bacteria. When applying the soap, do not scratch the wound as it may tear the growing new skin and cause re-damage. Make sure you rinse any soap scum as it may cause irritation, which may lead to infection.
- Wear breathable, loose clothes. This is important to prevent any irritation which can happen from clothes scratches onto the wounded area. Breathable clothes is also important to avoid excessive sweat contamination in the affected area which may cause more itchiness.