How to Prevent Toddlers From Picking Their Scabs

Minor scrapes, cuts and abrasions are an unavoidable part of life. You lovingly kiss the boo-boo to make the pain go away, but your battle is only beginning. When the skin breaks and suffers a trauma, specialized blood cells called platelets form a reddish-brown protective barrier, otherwise known as a scab. Scabs don’t look pretty, and they can also be irritating and itchy, leading many children to peel or scrape them off. Prevent the formation of a scar by properly caring for the wound and scab, which includes helping your child keep his fingers away.

  1. Care for the wound properly to help it heal and prevent infection. The Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford recommends calming your child before washing your hands and applying pressure to the cut or scrape until it stops bleeding. Gently clean the wound with soap and water before patting it dry, applying an antibiotic cream and loosely covering it with a bandage. Keep the wound covered and dry for at least 24 to 48 hours.

  1. Explain to your child that picking at the scab can cause an infection and a scar. Sit your child down and tell her that although the scab might be itchy and gross, picking at it can make her sick enough to see the doctor and leave behind a scar. Feel free to point out one of your own scars and let her know that you got it because you picked a scab.

  1. Dab a product that contains vitamin E gently on the scab. Aside from speeding up the healing process, the University of Vermont points out that the lotion or cream can reduce the annoying itch often associated with the healing cut.

  1. Cover the scab loosely with a bandage. If your child will not leave the scab alone, covering it loosely enough to allow air to reach the wound -- which is essential for speedy healing -- will prevent access to the scab.

  1. Reward and praise your child for leaving the scab alone. If your child gets through an entire day without picking at his scab, give her a hug and high-five along with an extra scoop of ice cream after dinner.

  2. Tips

    Watch for signs that the wound is infected and requires medical assistance. The Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford recommends taking your child to see a physician if the wound becomes warm, red, swells or begins to emit a foul discharge.


    Bring your child to the doctor if the wound is deeper or longer than 1/2 inch, if the bleeding is excessive or doesn’t stop after five to 10 minutes or if the wound is close to the eye or caused by a human or animal bite. All of these scenarios might require further medical treatment, such as antibiotics or stitches.

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