Itch (cont.)

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What are topical itch treatments? Are there any home remedies for itching?

Topical itch treatments, those used on the skin, include cold applications, creams, and lotions.

Cold applications: Because cold and itch travel along the same nerve fibers, the use of cold can "jam the circuits" and deaden itch. Methods of applying cold include the following:

  • Cool water, either by running tap water over the affected area or placing a cold clean washcloth on the skin
  • Cool showers
  • A cool bath; products that contain colloidal oatmeal are available over the counter as an itch relief bath
  • Ice packs, either the commercially available type or ice cubes in a plastic bag

Hot water (in the shower, for instance) feels good temporarily, but it can leave you feeling even itchier later. Therefore, the use of hot water is not recommended.

Anti-itch creams and lotions: Look for over-the-counter (OTC) remedies with these ingredients:

  • Camphor
  • Menthol
  • Phenol
  • Pramoxine
  • Diphenhydramine
  • Benzocaine (or one of the other "caine" anesthetics)

You can apply these products over and over, every few minutes if needed. These preparations help numb the nerve endings and stop you from a frenzy of scratching, which leaves the skin raw, sore, and even itchier.

Although hydrocortisone-containing creams and lotions are often promoted as itch reducers, this ingredient only helps an itch that is caused by a rash responsive to cortisone, such as eczema and seborrhea. Since OTC hydrocortisone-containing creams and lotions are weak (even so-called "maximum-strength" products contain only 1%), they aren't too helpful for itch even in responsive conditions. When pruritus is caused by irritations of other sorts (insect bites, for instance), hydrocortisone doesn't help much at all. If you use hydrocortisone for 10 days and experience no improvement, you should see a physician to help determine the cause of your itch.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/18/2015

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