Cosmetic Surgery Tips

Why Is My Surgical Incision Itchy

Whether you scrape your knee, cut yourself, or are recovering from surgery, you might experience the same annoying side effect: itching around your wound. So why does skin itch while healing? Scientists are still investigating, but it’s believed that as the skin heals, it stimulates nerve cells that can leave you feeling itchy.

Continue reading to learn more about why skin itches when healing, how to relieve an itchy wound, and when to see a healthcare provider.

Why Is My Surgical Incision Itchy

To understand why wounds itch, it’s helpful to learn a bit about how wounds heal. When you’re injured, your body goes through four stages of wound recovery, which are:1

  • Hemostasis: This is the bleeding stage, which occurs immediately after injury. The blood flushes debris and germs from the wound, then clots to prevent unnecessary blood loss. 
  • Inflammatory: During this stage, your immune system kicks in, releasing an array of chemicals to attack any germs at the site. The chemicals released include inflammatory proteins known as cytokines that are associated with itching.2 This stage lasts for up to two days.
  • Proliferation: The wound is closing and the skin is regrowing in this stage, which lasts between two days and two weeks. Often, this is when itching is most intense. Researchers believe there’s so much happening at the wound site during healing that the nerve cells become stimulated. Your brain interprets that stimulation as itchiness.3
  • Maturation or Remodeling: This phase begins two to three weeks after the injury and can last a year or longer. It’s when the skin becomes more mature and takes on its final appearance, often as a scar. 

Does Scratching Slow Down Healing? 

No matter how itchy your wound gets, it’s important not to scratch it. When you scratch, you damage the surface of the skin. That can slow down healing. It also puts you at risk for infection, since your fingers and nails can introduce bacteria or other germs into the wound.

You shouldn’t rub either, since that can disturb scabs, reopen wounds and undo the healing progress your body has made.4 Although itching can be annoying, you have to just let your body do its work. 

How to Stop a Healing Wound From Itching

Unfortunately, itching is a normal part of the healing process. Luckily, there are some things you can try to stop itching, including:5

  • Apply a topical anti-itch cream: Ask your healthcare provider about your options.
  • Use an ice pack or cold compress: This often feels soothing, but talk to your healthcare provider about it if you have a major wound. 
  • Moisturize: Moisturize the skin around the wound with a lotion that has no added fragrances. Talk to your healthcare provider about what might be best for you. 

When to See a Healthcare Provider 

If you are unable to stop scratching or rubbing your wound, you should see your healthcare provider. They can help you make a plan for managing the itch. In addition, you should see your healthcare provider if:

  • An older, mostly healed wound starts itching intensely
  • You experience any signs and symptoms of infection, including redness, discharge, or a fever


It’s normal for skin to itch when it’s healing. The wound healing process releases an array of chemicals that are part of your body’s natural immune response but can promote itching. In addition, a lot is going on around a wound site when your body is healing.

Your nerves interpret all that commotion as itchiness when it’s really just your body repairing itself. Scratching can slow down healing, so try other techniques to deal with the itch, like cold compresses. See a healthcare provider if your itching is intense or your wound becomes infected.

Is Itching A Sign Of Healing After Surgery

Wounds are common in life, whether it be a small cut from a kitchen knife or a more serious injury from an accident. They can be painful and annoying to deal with, but wounds are a normal part of life and generally heal on their own with proper care and attention.

So, if you have a wound, don’t worry. Take good care of yourself and let your body work to heal the injury.

Some wounds, however, require medical care. Large or deep cuts may need stitches or sutures, while other injuries may get infected and require antibiotics. If you want a doctor to look at your wound, visit your neighborhood CityMD for an immediate evaluation and treatment.

And if your wound starts to itch, that’s normal too. Read on to learn more about what causes wounds, how the body heals them, why wounds may itch at times, and what you can do to prevent complications.

What are wounds?

Wounds are injuries to the skin or underlying tissues caused by various factors such as cuts, scrapes, burns, or punctures. They can range in severity from minor scratches to more severe injuries that require medical attention.

The skin is the body’s first line of defense against harmful bacteria and viruses. When a wound compromises this protective layer, it can increase the risk of infection.

The healing process begins as soon as the wound occurs. The body sends specialized cells to the injury site to repair the damaged tissue. Blood vessels in the area get larger to bring more oxygen and nutrients to the cells, and new cells replace the damaged tissue.

Why do wounds itch?

Wounds can itch for several reasons, including the body’s natural healing process, nerve irritation, or the release of histamines — chemicals released by the immune system that trigger allergic reactions. Here are some possible explanations.

The body’s healing process

The human body has an amazing ability to repair and regenerate damaged tissue. Even the most stubborn wounds can eventually heal with proper care and attention.

Itching is a natural part of the body’s healing process. When the skin is injured, the body sends blood cells to the area to repair the damage. These cells release substances that cause inflammation and itchiness, a sign that the healing process is underway.

Histamine release

Histamines are chemicals released by the body’s immune system in response to injury or infection. They help to increase blood flow and bring white blood cells to the area to fight infection. However, histamines can also cause itching and irritation.

Nerve irritation

When the skin is injured, the nerve fibers in the affected area can become irritated. Nerve irritation leads to sensations of pain, itching, or burning.

In short, itching is a common and often uncomfortable symptom of the healing process.

Wounds that itch are not usually a cause for concern. It may be a sign of infection if the itching is severe or accompanied by other symptoms, like redness, swelling, or pus. That’s when you should seek immediate medical attention by visiting your neighborhood CityMD urgent care or by scheduling a virtual visit.

How do you stop a wound from itching?

When you have a wound that itches, it can be frustrating and distracting. You might be tempted to scratch it, but that can actually make the itching worse and increase your risk of infection. So, what can you do to stop a wound from itching?

Here are some friendly tips to help you soothe the itch.

  • Keep wounds clean and dry. Cleaning and drying the wound is essential to prevent infection and promote healing. Use a gentle cleanser to wash the area and pat it dry with a clean towel.
  • Apply a cold compress. Using a cold compress can help reduce inflammation and numb the area, which relieves itching. You can use a cold pack or wrap some ice in a towel and apply it to the wound for a few minutes at a time.
  • Use a topical cream. Several over-the-counter creams and ointments can help to soothe itching, such as hydrocortisone cream, calamine lotion, or aloe vera gel. Just make sure to read the label and follow the instructions carefully.
  • Try not to scratch. As tempting as it may be, scratching a wound can make the itching worse and delay healing. Try to distract yourself with other activities, such as reading, watching TV, or chatting with friends.
  • Consult a healthcare provider. If your wound is particularly itchy or showing other signs of infection such as redness, swelling, or discharge. it’s best to consult an urgent care provider. Walk right into your neighborhood CityMD urgent care to determine the underlying cause of the itch and get the appropriate treatment.

Remember, be patient when dealing with a wound. It may take some time to heal completely, but with proper care and attention, you can help to minimize itching and promote healing.

Is your wound not healing? Try wound care At CityMD

If you need wound treatment, your local CityMD urgent care is a great option.

CityMD’s compassionate and experienced healthcare providers are available every day of the week and can help assess your wound. They can also provide treatment and advice you on how to care for the wound at home.

With more than 160 locations throughout the tri-state area, you can easily find a CityMD urgent care center that’s convenient for you. No appointment is necessary, you can simply walk in and get the care you need as soon as possible.

How To Treat Itching After Surgery

If you’ve had stitches to repair a traumatic wound or after surgery, your doctor should give you specific instructions on caring for your stitches, and when and how they will be removed. Not all wound closures — like dissolving stitches or surgical glue — require removal.

Here are some tips on caring for your stitches:

  • Keep your stitches dry for the first 24 to 48 hours.
  • After the first few days, you may clean gently around your stitches with cool water and mild soap one to two times per day.
  • Dab your incision site dry. Do not rub it.
  • Do not scratch or scrub your incision.
  • Avoid strenuous activity that could cause the stitches to tear.
  • Do not remove adhesive strips (Steri-Strips) that may be covering your stitches. These will fall off on their own.
  • Change your dressing as directed by your doctor.
  • Do not apply any creams or ointments to your stitches unless advised by your doctor.
  • Call your doctor if you have a fever or increasing redness and pain, purulent drainage like yellow or green pus, or bleeding at the site. This could be a sign of infection.
  • Do not pull at your stitches or staples, or scabs covering the wound.
  • Keep your hands and supplies clean during dressing changes.

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