Wound healing is a complex process that involves various stages, each crucial for the restoration of tissue integrity. As wounds progress through these phases, individuals may experience sensations such as pain, swelling, and itching. Among these sensations, itching can often be puzzling and sometimes uncomfortable. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the phenomenon of itching during wound healing.

Why Do Wounds Itch When They Heal?

man scratching an itchy woundItching, also known as pruritus, is a common sensation experienced during wound healing. Several factors contribute to this phenomenon:

Inflammatory Response: During the early stages of wound healing, the body initiates an inflammatory response to remove debris and pathogens from the wound site. This process involves the release of various inflammatory mediators, including histamine, cytokines, and prostaglandins, which can stimulate nerve fibers and trigger itching sensations.

Nerve Regeneration: As the wound heals, nerve endings regenerate and become more sensitive. The formation of new nerve fibers and their interaction with surrounding tissues can result in heightened sensitivity and itching.

Cellular Activity: Throughout the proliferative phase of wound healing, cells such as fibroblasts and keratinocytes actively migrate and proliferate to promote tissue regeneration. The metabolic activity of these cells and the production of extracellular matrix components may contribute to itching.

Dryness and Tightness: As wounds progress from the inflammatory phase to the remodeling phase, the formation of new tissue can lead to dryness and tightness around the wound site. These sensations can exacerbate itching, especially in areas where the skin is stretched or under tension.

Histamine Release: Mast cells, which are involved in the inflammatory response, release histamine during wound healing. Histamine is a key mediator of itching and can cause blood vessels to dilate, leading to increased blood flow and sensation.

Understanding these underlying mechanisms can help patients and healthcare providers recognize itching as a normal part of the healing process rather than a cause for concern.

How to Stop a Healing Wound From Itching

While itching can be bothersome, there are several strategies to alleviate discomfort and promote healing:

  • Cleaning the Wound Site: wound care is essential to prevent infection, which can exacerbate itching. Clean the wound gently with mild soap and water, and apply an appropriate dressing to keep it protected.
  • Moisturize the Skin: Dry skin can exacerbate itching. Regularly moisturize the surrounding skin with a gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer to keep it hydrated and supple.
  • Avoid Scratching: Although scratching may provide temporary relief, it can damage the healing tissue and increase the risk of infection. Try to resist the urge to scratch and instead use gentle tapping or cooling techniques to alleviate itching.
  • Topical Treatments: Over-the-counter anti-itch creams containing ingredients such as hydrocortisone or calamine can help relieve itching. However, it’s essential to consult a wound care specialist before using any topical treatments, especially on open wounds.
  • Oral Antihistamines: In cases of persistent or severe itching, oral antihistamines may be prescribed to reduce itching sensations. These medications work by blocking the action of histamine, thereby alleviating itching.
  • Cool Compresses: Applying a cool, damp cloth or an ice pack to the itching area can provide temporary relief by numbing the nerve endings and reducing inflammation.
  • Distraction Techniques: Engaging in activities that divert attention away from the itching sensation, such as reading, listening to music, or practicing relaxation techniques, can help manage discomfort.

Why Do Wounds Itch at Night?

Itching sensations often intensify at night, disrupting sleep and causing discomfort. Several factors contribute to nocturnal itching during wound healing:

  • Decreased Distractions: During the day, individuals are typically engaged in various activities that distract them from itching sensations. However, at night, when the environment is quieter and there are fewer distractions, people may become more aware of itching sensations.
  • Body Positioning: Changes in body positioning during sleep can lead to increased pressure and friction on the wound, triggering itching sensations. Additionally, warmth and humidity generated by bedding can exacerbate itching.
  • Circadian Rhythms: The body’s circadian rhythms, which regulate physiological processes over a 24-hour cycle, may influence itching sensations. Studies have shown that certain inflammatory markers, including histamine levels, exhibit diurnal variations, with higher levels observed at night.
  • Psychological Factors: Nighttime itching can also be influenced by psychological factors such as stress, anxiety, or depression, which may be more pronounced during the quiet hours of the night.

How Long Does Itching Last During Wound Healing?

hand scratching a healing woundThe duration of itching during wound healing varies depending on various factors, including the type and severity of the wound, individual healing capacity, and adherence to wound care practices. In general, itching tends to be most pronounced during the inflammatory and proliferative phases of wound healing, which typically last for the first few weeks after injury.

As the wound enters the remodeling phase, itching sensations usually diminish as inflammation subsides, and the newly formed tissue matures. However, in some cases, itching may persist beyond the initial healing phases, especially if the wound undergoes abnormal scarring or develops complications such as infection.

Additional Signs of Healthy Wound Healing

Monitoring the progress of wound healing is crucial for ensuring optimal outcomes and identifying potential complications. While itching can be a normal part of the healing process, it is essential to recognize other signs indicating that a wound is healing properly. Here are some signs of healthy wound healing to watch for:

  • Decreased Pain: As the wound heals, pain and discomfort should gradually decrease. While mild discomfort or tenderness may persist, significant and persistent pain may indicate underlying issues such as infection or inadequate wound management.
  • Reduction in Swelling: Inflammation and swelling are common in the early stages of wound healing but should subside as the healing process progresses. A reduction in swelling and inflammation suggests that the inflammatory phase is resolving and the wound is healing properly.
  • Granulation Tissue Formation: Granulation tissue, characterized by its beefy red appearance and moist texture, is a sign of active wound healing. It serves as a scaffold for the formation of new blood vessels and connective tissue, facilitating tissue regeneration and wound closure.
  • Epithelialization: Epithelial cells migrate from the wound edges to cover the wound surface, forming a new layer of skin. The presence of epithelial tissue indicates that the wound is progressing through the proliferative phase and is on track to achieve closure.
  • Minimal Drainage: In the initial stages of wound healing, some drainage or exudate may be present, consisting of fluid, blood, or pus. However, as the wound heals, drainage should decrease, and the wound should become drier and cleaner.
  • Wound Contraction: Contraction of the wound edges is a natural process that helps reduce the size of the wound and promote closure. Observing gradual closure of the wound edges indicates that the wound is healing properly.
  • No Signs of Infection: Signs of infection include increased redness, warmth, swelling, pain, and drainage with a foul odor. Additionally, fever and systemic symptoms may indicate a systemic infection. It is essential to monitor for these signs and seek medical attention if they occur.
  • Steady Progress: Overall, the wound should show steady progress towards healing, with visible improvement in appearance and symptoms over time. If there are any concerns or uncertainties about the healing process, consulting a wound care professional is advisable.


Itching during wound healing is a common yet often misunderstood phenomenon. While it can be bothersome, understanding the underlying mechanisms and implementing appropriate wound care strategies can help alleviate discomfort and support the healing process.

While itching is a normal part of the healing process, persistent or severe itching should prompt evaluation by a wound care specialist to rule out complications and ensure optimal wound healing.

If you have suffered a wound or have any questions about the healing process the specialized team at West Coast Wound Center is here to help. Schedule an appointment today.



2501 W Burbank Blvd #200, Burbank, CA 91505

Phone: (818) 856-9535

Fax: (818) 979-0593