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What Does A Yellow Scab Indicate?

Scabs form during the process of healing. Normally, the scabs are red and turn brownish black as the wound heals. The texture of the skin also undergoes many changes during wound healing. However, in some cases the color of the scabs turns yellow. This normally indicates the onset of an infection like cold sore or impetigo.  It is essential to have better knowledge of the various stages of wound healing and the various changes that occur when a wound heals.  This allows physicians to identify factors which are responsible for delayed wound healing.  Every factor has a role to play in diagnosing and managing all different types of wounds [1, 2].

An individual can have delayed wound healing due to various different factors.  These include the extent and severity of the wound itself.  If the wound is open then it may get contaminated and infected due to bacteria exposure which may affect the healing process.  In some cases the presence of maceration, skin necrosis, additional trauma, and in rare instances edema also affect the healing of a wound [1].

There are also cases where an individual has wound delays due to factors which do not have any bearing to the wound itself.  These factors include the age of the patient, the body habitus, how well the immune system of the patient is working.  All these factors which play a role in delayed wound healing may also play a factor in a scab turning yellow.  This article explains as to what yellow scabs indicate[1].

What Does A Yellow Scab Indicate?

What Does A Yellow Scab Indicate?

A scab is defined as a dry crust that forms over a wound during the process of wound healing.  A scab is the natural way of the body to seal the wound and prevent further bleeding.  It also protects the wound from getting contaminated and preventing infections from settling over the wound.  The natural color of a scab is red and as the wound heals it may become darker.  However, in some people instead of the scan turning dark it becomes light in color with time[2].

This usually happens whenever there is a buildup of pus within the wound.  Development of pus is an indication of onset of infection.  The infection can be bacterial or viral like impetigo or herpes.  At times, the scab tends to break resulting in pink or yellow colored fluid oozing out of the wound.  When this happens it signifies that the body is clearing off the infection and is a natural process.  The individual however should ensure that the affected area is kept dry and covered[2].

If the immune system of the body is not able to get rid of all of the bacteria then again the scab may turn yellow indicating infection.  Aside from a yellow scab, the infected wound will have an extended area of erythema around the wound.  Oozing of pus is also common in an infected wound.  The individual will have pain, swelling, and tenderness around the affected area which will worsen instead of improving with time.  Gradually as the infection progresses, the patient will develop fever which again may worsen if the wound is not treated[2].

Impetigo: This is yet another cause of a scab turning yellow. This usually happens when bacteria infiltrates the wound through the cut or scrape.  An area of eczema can also lead to a bacterial infection from setting in.  An individual with impetigo will have yellow scabs which will ooze fluid.  It is a very contagious condition and can spread by touching or coming in contact with the wound[2].

Cold Sores: This is a viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. The characteristic lesions of a cold sore generally develop around the lips. It causes burning, tingling, and severe itching sensation around the lesions. These sensations wax and wane and may stay for several hours at a time. The blisters due to cold sores break after some days and ooze pus[2].

The process of breaking of the blisters can be extremely painful and they may persist for about a week. Post drainage of the pus, formation of scab occurs.  The color of these scabs is generally yellow.  These scabs stay there for a few days before falling off[2].

Coming to treatment of these conditions that cause yellow scabs, usually no treatment is required for minor cuts and bruises. They generally get better with time and taking care of the wound by keeping it clean and dry.  In case of the wound gets infected then a consultation with a physician is recommended to identify the type of the infection and formulate a treatment plan.  If impetigo is believed to be the cause of yellow scabs then the patient will prescribed oral or topical antibiotics.  The dosage of the antibiotic will depend on the extent and severity of the disease[2].

Since the condition is contagious, the patient will be recommended to not maintain any sort of direct contact with other members of the family till the time the infection resolves.  With treatment, it takes about a month for the infection to completely clear away.  According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the wound should be taken care of by cleaning it thoroughly with soap and water multiple times a day.  It is also important to cover the wound with dry bandages till the wound heals[2].

The patient should avoid touching or scratching the wound even if there is severe urge to scratch the wound.  Since cold sore is a viral infection, there is no cure for it as of now.  The condition will appear every now and then and resolve by itself in a few days.  An outbreak of a cold sore can be triggered by various factors like stress or any other underlying medical condition[2].

There is an antiviral medication called Abreva that is widely used for treating cold cores.  It works by inhibiting the effects of the virus.  However, this medication is only effective when used in the beginning of the infection.  Oral antivirals can also be used for calming down the symptoms of Cold Sores.  In some cases, it also helps in preventing future outbreaks of this condition[2].

In conclusion, formation of scabs is a normal stage of the process of wound healing.  They prevent the wound from getting infected by forming a crust over the wound and closing any open areas through which contaminants may enter the body and cause infection.  The natural color of a scab is dark red in color and it becomes darker as the wound heals.  However, in some cases the color of the scab becomes yellow.  There are various reasons for it but the common cause for a scab turning yellow is development of a skin condition called impetigo or cold sores[2].

While impetigo is a bacterial infection, cold sores are caused due to HSV virus.  Impetigo can be treated with antibiotics and it usually takes about a month for the infection to clear away.  It is an extremely contagious condition and while treatment is going on it is recommended that the affected individual should maintain no contact with family members to prevent further spread of the condition[2].

While there is no cure for cold sores, this condition usually resolves within a span of a few days. There are some antiviral medications which can be used to calm down the symptoms of cold sores. Yellow scabs are not a cause for worry as long as the conditions causing it are treated and the scab falls by itself within a few days[2].


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 3, 2022

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