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How to get a child to stop picking scabs

Updated July 20, 2017

Scabs are an important part of the healing process. They protect broken skin until new skin forms. Your child may feel the compulsion to pick at scabs, perhaps because the scab itches or to release pent-up anxiety. If your child picks at scabs, it's important to stop this habit to prevent infections. You may need to try several different strategies before you're able to stop your child from picking scabs.

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  1. Help your child's cut or scratch heal faster. Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water every day until it's healed. Rinse and apply an antibiotic ointment. Apply a moisturiser with vitamin E to prevent the scab from itching. Cover the scab lightly with an adhesive bandage. Make sure the bandage isn't too tight, it could prevent air from getting to the scab and slow the healing process.

  2. Talk to your child about the importance of not picking scabs. Discuss the healing process with your child in an age-appropriate way. Explain that a scab protects the skin as it heals and that it's important not to pick the scab. Tell your child that picking a scab may result in a scar.

  3. Distract your child when she starts picking a scab. If your child is younger, try a new activity or toy to keep her interested and help her forget about the scab. Watch your child throughout the day to make sure she's not picking the scab.

  4. Use positive reinforcement. Create a chart for each day. Place a sticker on the days your child doesn't pick the scab. Give your child a reward for a certain number of stickers. If your child is younger, give him a sticker for not picking his scab in the morning, another sticker for not picking in the afternoon and another one at night. Triple the amount of stickers he needs to receive a reward.

  5. Talk to your doctor if your child picks scabs constantly. It may be a sign of anxiety. Provide your child with other outlets to control anxiety, such as talking about her worries, playing with an animal or drawing. Talk to a doctor about treatments your child could receive if she suffers from anxiety or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

  6. Tip

    A colourful adhesive bandage or one that has a picture of your child's favourite cartoon character can prevent the child from taking off the adhesive bandage and picking at the scab.


    Don't make a rule about not picking scabs. You won't be able to enforce the rule at all times and the child may think it's OK to break rules if you're not watching.

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About the Author

Lucia Mata has been writing since 2008, covering parenting and design topics. Her work has appeared in both English and Spanish publications. Mata has an Associate of Arts in interior design from Salt Lake Community College and a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Utah Valley University.

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