For temporary relief of itching, try these self-care measures:
Jan. 28, 2014
- Use a high-quality moisturizing cream on your skin. Apply this cream at least once or twice daily, concentrating on the areas where itching is most severe. Examples include Cetaphil, Eucerin, CeraVe and others.
Apply an anti-itch cream or lotion to the affected area. Short-term use of nonprescription hydrocortisone cream containing at least 1 percent hydrocortisone can temporarily relieve the itch. So can menthol, camphor or calamine.
Topical anesthetics, such as lidocaine or benzocaine, may be helpful. However, benzocaine has been linked to a rare but serious, sometimes deadly condition known as methemoglobinemia, which decreases the amount of oxygen that the blood can carry. Don't use benzocaine in children younger than age 2 without supervision from a health care professional. If you're an adult, never use more than the recommended dose of benzocaine, and consider talking with your doctor.
- Avoid scratching whenever possible. Cover the itchy area if you can't keep from scratching it. Trim nails and wear gloves at night.
- Apply cool, wet compresses. Covering the affected area with bandages and dressings can help protect the skin and prevent scratching.
- Take a lukewarm bath. Sprinkle the bath water with baking soda, uncooked oatmeal or colloidal oatmeal — a finely ground oatmeal that is made for the bathtub (Aveeno, others).
- Wear smooth-textured, loose cotton clothing. This will help you avoid irritation.
- Choose mild soaps without dyes or perfumes. Be sure to rinse the soap completely off your body. And after washing, apply a moisturizer to protect your skin.
- Use a mild, unscented laundry detergent when washing clothes, towels and bedding. Try using the extra-rinse cycle on your washing machine.
- Avoid substances that irritate your skin or that cause an allergic reaction. These can include nickel, jewelry, perfume or skin 9999products with fragrance, cleaning products, and cosmetics.
- Reduce stress. Stress can worsen itching. Counseling, behavior modification therapy, meditation and yoga are some ways of relieving stress.
- Fazio SB, et al. Pruritis: Overview of management. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 28, 2013.
- Cassano N, et al. Chronic pruritus in the absence of specific skin disease. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. 2010;11:399.
- Goldsmith LA, et al., eds. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 8th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=740. Accessed Aug. 28, 2013.
- Yosipovitch G, et al. Chronic pruritis. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2013;368:1625.
- Benzocaine topical products: Sprays, gels and liquids — Risk of methemoglobinemia. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm250264.htm. Accessed Aug. 28, 2013.
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