Scabbing is part of your body’s amazing natural ability to heal itself. When you suffer a cut, abrasion, or bleeding wound in the skin, a scab forms to stop the bleeding and cover the cut with a protective layer. This layer is made of:
These components thread together to form a clot. When the clot hardens, you’re left with a scab. During the healing process, connective tissue cells below the scab contract and pull the edges of the wound together, like stitches. When the wound is healed, the scab falls off to reveal healthy, repaired skin underneath.
Scabs, also known as crusts, are very helpful. In addition to stopping bleeding and stabilizing wounds, they also defend the skin against bacteria and other germs, helping to prevent infection while the skin is rebuilding itself.
Scabs are usually a dark red color. This color comes from hemoglobin — the protein inside red blood cells that carries oxygen. However, scabs can be different colors depending on a variety of factors, such as:
- age of the scab
- type of wound
Generally speaking, as scabs get older, they may change in color. A healthy scab may go from being dark red/brown to a lighter color, or it could become darker before falling off.
There are many different reasons why a scab may be yellow or have a yellow shade:
Normal wear and tear
A scab may remain on your skin for several days to a couple weeks depending on the wound and the overall healing process. If you have a scab, it’s considered normal to see it change into a yellowish color over time. This is completely normal and is the result of the hemoglobin from red blood cells in the scab being broken down and washed away.
When the hemoglobin byproduct is washed away, all that’s left of a scab is empty dead red blood cells, platelets, and skin debris. When this happens, the scab takes on a yellow or brownish hue.
When you get a scrape or an abrasion, serous fluid (which contains serum) can be found at the healing site. Serous fluid, also known as serous exudate, is a yellow, transparent liquid that aids the healing process by providing a moist, nourishing environment for the skin to repair.
Serous exudate comprises:
If you see moist, yellow color around your scab it could simply be serum. However, if you see yellow around your scab and the area is also inflamed or swollen, it could be a sign of infection.
If your scab is yellow, there’s a chance it could be due to infection. To check for infection, look for:
- increased pain/sensitivity
- cloudy fluid leakage (pus)
- bad odor
- fever or chills
If you experience one or some of these symptoms, there’s a chance the scab is infected. In some cases, yellow scabbing can be a sign of impetigo, which is usually caused by staph or strep bacterial infection. Impetigo can lead to fever, spread to multiple areas of skin, and spread to other people. If you think your child might have impetigo, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor.
Although scabs usually don’t become infected, repeated breaks in the scab or an abundance of germs are just some ways infection can occur.
When it comes to yellow scabs, there are some simple measures you can take to help speed up the healing process, help your skin repair itself, and prevent infection:
- Keep the scab/wound clean.
- Moisturize the scab with antibacterial cream or petroleum jelly.
- Securely cover the scab with a bandage.
- Do not pick at or scratch the affected area.
If your skin near the scab becomes infected, you can speak to your doctor who may prescribe an antibiotic to fight the infection.
Scabs are an essential part of healing, and while yellow scabs may be unsightly, they are usually a normal feature of the healing process. Basic care for a yellow scab is to keep it clean, moisturized, and covered.
Other than that, sometimes the best thing you can do for a scab is to simply be patient and let it be. Many cuts heal on their own without intervention by doctors. However, if your yellow scab is infected, painful, or causing you distress, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor for help.