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Should people scratch the itch?

Itching usually prompts scratching, which can sometimes lead to a vicious itch-scratch cycle. Scratching can initially feel satisfying, but prolonged scratching just leaves you with irritated skin that can still itch and often worsens the itching itself. Since scratching provides only temporary relief and doesn't promote healing of the underlying problem, it is best to avoid scratching if at all possible. If scratching breaks open the skin, bacterial infection can set in. This is known as secondary infection. And if scratching continues for many months or years, the area that is scratched may develop thickened skin (lichenification) or pigmentation that darkens the area.

The best way to allow irritated skin to heal is to stop scratching it. However, willpower often is not enough since the urge to scratch can be compelling. The following sections discuss some general measures and home remedies to help control itch, regardless of the cause.

Return to Itch (Itching or Pruritus)

See what others are saying

Comment from: tmradius, 75 or over Male (Patient) Published: July 30

My itching started twice around 4 in the morning while sleeping. My first tendency was to use my fingernails but that became too harsh. Then I used a cloth (with some fuzz on it) to rub the area gently. While not as satisfying as a good hard scratch, it didn't cause the unsightly redness of brutal scratching.

Was this comment helpful?Yes
Comment from: pinky, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: December 09

I've suffered since I was a child with itchy red hives all over my body. Only recently I've found that hand gels that simply cleanse your hands actually removes the terrible itchy feeling.

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Comment from: 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: December 09

I've had a keloid in the face area for about 5 years now, and it swells a little then it would go back to its normal size. From time to time I would have horrible itching. What I would do is take a small cloth towel and pour some alcohol on it, enough to soak the scar, press the cloth against the itching area and hold it there for about five minutes. No more itching! It works for me.

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