Itch (cont.)

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

What are oral itch treatments?

Traditionally, antihistamines are used to treat itch. Examples include diphenhydramine (Benadryl), hydroxyzine (Atarax), and chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton and others). These medicines can induce drowsiness in many people and must be used with care before driving a car or operating heavy machinery. Although antihistamines may help the itch, they seem to do so mainly by helping people fall asleep and avoid scratching at night. If falling or staying asleep is not your main problem, you may want to try one of the nonsedating antihistamines. Loratadine (Claritin) and fexofenadine (Allegra and others) are examples of newer second-generation antihistamines that are available without a prescription. The second-generation antihistamines do not have the sedating effects of the older first-generation antihistamines but they are not very effective in quelling the itch.

Can itching be prevented?

Itching can be prevented only to the extent that the underlying cause(s) of the itching can be prevented. For example, careful use of sunscreen products can prevent the itching associated with sunburn. Keeping well hydrated and using moisturizers can prevent the itch associated with dry skin. It is also possible to take preventive measures to avoid conditions like sexually transmitted diseases, tick or bug bites, or lice infestations that may be the sources of itching. Itching associated with serious conditions like cancers and liver or kidney disease cannot typically be prevented.

When should the doctor be consulted for itching (pruritus)?

If home treatment isn't helping, scratching is affecting the skin being scratched (infection, lichenification [thickening and scarring], or pigmentation), or the itch is disturbing one's sleep, consult a doctor to ascertain what's causing the itching. A doctor can also prescribe stronger cortisone-based creams (for eczemas and allergies) and prescription-grade antihistamines, if necessary, or treat the underlying condition that is causing the itch.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/18/2015

Skin Pictures Slideshow: Adult Skin Problems

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Itching - Treatments Question: What treatment did you receive for your itching?
Itching - Cause Question: What was the cause of your itching?
Itching - Associated Symptoms Question: In addition to itching, what other signs or symptoms did you experience?
Itching - Scratching Prevention Question: How do you keep from scratching an itch? Please share helpful tips and suggestions.