How to stop itchy skin
Itchy skin treatment
Healthy skin is vital for your overall well-being, but itchy skin, also known as pruritus, is an annoying and uncomfortable sensation that makes you want to scratch. It’s normal to get an itch sometimes, but if it lasts for more than five or six weeks, it means you have a chronic itch that may interfere with your everyday life. Your skin may appear red, irritated, or rough depending on what’s causing it. If an itch is left untreated for too long, excessive scratching may lead to open wounds, bleeding and infections.
Causes of itchy skin
Constantly scratching your skin is uncomfortable and aggravating. So, what causes the itch? Itchy skin is commonly caused by dry skin. Our skin gets drier with age, so older adults are more prone to dry, itchy skin. If your skin itching is severe and nothing is helping, it’s best to see a dermatologist. Common causes of itchy skin are:
- Skin conditions: dry skin, eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, scabies, burns, bug bites, fever blisters, hives and rash
- Psychiatric conditions: obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and anxiety
- Nerve disorders: pinched nerves and multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Disease: lymphoma, diabetes, thyroid problems, ringworm and liver and kidney diseases
- Allergic reactions: to chemicals, food, soap, pollen and medications (prescription and nonprescription)
Types of anti-itch products
The skin is the biggest organ of the body, yet it’s often one of the most neglected. It’s hard not to give in to scratching, whether it’s due to dry skin or exposure to poison ivy. In the moment, scratching may feel satisfying, but prolonged scratching can damage your skin, exposing it to the environment and potentially leading to infection.
Depending on the cause and severity of your itchy skin, there are various anti-itch products available, including unscented skincare products for sensitive skin, over-the-counter and prescription medications and even shots for severe dermatitis.
Best ways to soothe itchy skin
When dealing with itchy skin, it’s important to try to avoid scratching the affected area to minimize irritation and risk of infection. These home remedies and over-the-counter products have all been successful at soothing skin.
- Oatmeal: Studies show that taking oatmeal baths can soothe the itch. You can use colloidal oatmeal available at pharmacies, such as a 100% natural colloidal oatmeal bath treatment from Aveeno.
- Keep it cool: Using an ice pack or a cool, wet cloth on the agitated area can relieve the itch.
- Moisturizer: Lotion formulated for eczema or dry skin can deeply moisturize skin by normalizing and diversifying bacterial communities in the skin that help to reduce irritation.
- Pramoxine: CeraVe Itch Relief Moisturizing Cream contains pramoxine, which temporarily relieves itching.
- Antihistamines: Histamines cause allergies that can lead to itchy skin. Benadryl Allergy Relief Tabs have antihistamines to reduce the itching. They may lead to drowsiness.
- Hydrocortisone: Anti-itch cream like Cortizone-10 Maximum Strength with at least 1% hydrocortisone inhibits inflammatory responses and can help soothe irritated skin. However, these products should be only used short-term.
- Calamine: If calamine is kept in the refrigerator, it can have a cooling effect on irritated skin.
Side effects of anti-itch products
When used in moderation and as directed by your dermatologist, anti-itch products may only have minor side effects. Excessive use of hydrocortisone may lead to blistering or flaking of the skin. Use of pramoxine may cause a burning sensation, though it’s rare. Anti-itch products are recommended for short-term use only, unless directed otherwise.
Anti-itch product prices
Anti-itch products are available over the counter for under $10. The price may vary depending on the brand. Skincare products may cost up to $30. Prescription medications can vary depending on the ingredients or your insurance but should be under $100. We don’t recommend buying anti-itch medication in bulk, as it’s meant to resolve temporary itching.
How to prevent itchy skin
While it’s a good idea to talk to your dermatologist about which prevention methods may work best for you, some are relatively simple and easy to implement on your own.
- Wear cotton or loose-fitting clothing, as rough materials may irritate your skin.
- Minimize stress, as stress can make your skin itch more.
- Choose only unscented products for sensitive skin, as they don’t have any fragrance that can irritate your skin.
- Shower in cool or lukewarm water, as overly hot water can cause skin irritation.
- Avoid extreme hot and dry temperatures and use a humidifier in the winter to prevent dry skin.
- Take or apply medication for itchy skin as directed by the dermatologist.
Itchy skin FAQ
Q. Why does my body itch, but I don’t have a rash?
A. The most common cause for itching is dry skin, which is normal. Very rarely, itching all over the body is a result of issues with the kidneys, liver or nervous system, which may not always cause a rash.
Q. Can itchy skin be a sign of something serious?
A. It’s unlikely, but if it’s a persistent itch that won’t go away, it’s best to see a dermatologist.
Q. What causes itchiness?
A. Itching can be caused by dry skin, allergic reaction to food, chemicals or medication, diseases of the kidney, liver or nerves, some forms of cancer like lymphoma or lack of hygiene.
Anjana Rajbhandary is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.
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