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It’s tempting to pick at your skin, especially when it’s itchy, painful, or there are blemishes begging to be popped. Unfortunately, that’s the exact kind of behavior that leads to scarring.
“Behavioral things like bringing the fingertips or any sort of tool to your skin and breaking the surface of the skin will make things much more likely to scar over,” said Dr. Evan Rieder, a certified dermatologist and psychiatrist at NYU Langone Health.
While there’s a chance for acne scars, injury, and even surgical scars to be mitigated, scarring from monkeypox, chicken pox, and any other infections caused by this family of viruses may be inevitable.
Rieder’s best advice if you don’t want scars is to take measures to avoid getting pox infections in the first place, which may involve looking into a vaccine, especially if you’re in a high-risk group or have high-risk contacts.
For something like monkeypox, there are also steps you can take once you’ve been exposed. Rieder suggested that those who are immunocompromised or in high-risk groups in particular get immediate medical attention and ask about postexposure vaccination or treatments that can help reduce the symptoms. There are also some medications, like tecovirimat (Tpoxx), being made available on a limited basis that can help ward off severe symptoms.
Try not to scratch skin lesions
“If things are itchy or you’re afraid there’s something infectious, obviously you want to get a medical evaluation and see if there are any prescriptions that are required, like antibiotics, like topical steroids that can sometimes decrease itchiness and inflammation and make it less likely that a lesion is going to be manipulated by you,” he said. “The most important thing, as itchy as some of them may be, is to not scratch them.”
Prescription-strength topical steroids are the best thing for itching, according to Rieder, but the less potent over-the-counter hydrocortisone is a good place to start. It has anti-inflammatory properties, but it’s not something you want to put on your skin if there’s any concern of true infection.