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Itching Relief

Topic Overview

Home remedies may relieve itching.

To relieve itching

  • Avoid further contact with whatever you suspect is causing the itching.
  • Keep the itchy area cool and wet. Apply a washcloth that has been soaked in ice water, or get in a cool tub or shower. But remember that repeated wetting and drying will actually dry your skin.
  • Avoid taking a hot shower or bath. Keep the water as cool as you can tolerate.
  • Take an oatmeal bath or hold an oatmeal-soaked washcloth on the itchy area for 15 minutes.
    • You can buy an oatmeal powder, such as Aveeno Colloidal Oatmeal, in drugstores.
    • If you prefer, you can make your own oatmeal solution. Wrap 1 cup (0.2 L) of oatmeal in a cotton cloth, and boil it for a few minutes until it is soft. Use this as a sponge, and bathe in cool water without soap.
  • Apply a paste of baking soda mixed with water.

If any of these home remedies make the itching worse, stop using them.

To keep itching from getting worse

You may be able to prevent itching from getting worse.

  • Stay out of the sun and in a cool place. Heat increases itching.
  • Use as little soap as possible. If you use soap, use a gentle one, such as Dove, Oil of Olay, or Basis. Avoid using strong soaps and deodorant soaps around blisters or a rash.
  • Try a cool, saltwater compress. To make the solution for the compress, use 2 tsp of salt in 1 qt (1 L) of cool water. Wet a washcloth with the solution and apply the cloth to your skin.
  • Avoid dry skin, which will worsen itching. Apply a moisturizer or calamine lotion to the skin while it is damp. For more information, see the topic Dry Skin and Itching.
  • Wear cotton or silk clothing. Avoid wearing wool and acrylic fabrics next to your skin.
  • Try washing your clothes with a mild detergent such as Cheer Free and Gentle or Ecover. Rinse twice to remove all traces of the cleaning product. Avoid strong detergents when you have a rash.
  • Take several breaks during the day to do a relaxation exercise, particularly before going to bed, if stress appears to cause your itching or make it worse.
    • Sit or lie down, and try to clear your mind of distracting thoughts. Concentrate on relaxing every muscle in your body, starting with your toes and going up to your head.
    • For more information, see the topic Stress Management.

Don't scratch. Scratching leads to more itching and may cause a skin infection to develop. Cut nails short or wear cotton gloves at night to prevent scratching. Put mittens or cotton socks on the hands of babies and young children to prevent scratching.

Over-the-counter medicines for itching

If home treatment doesn't relieve the itching, you may want to try taking an over-the-counter medicine.

  • Try a nonprescription 1% hydrocortisone cream for small itchy areas.
    • Use only a tiny amount of cream on the face or genitals.
    • If itching is severe, your doctor may prescribe a stronger cream.
    • Note: Don't use the cream on children younger than age 2 unless your doctor tells you to. Don't use it in the rectal or vaginal area in children younger than age 12 unless your doctor tells you to.
  • Calamine lotion may help dry out itchy, oozing blisters.
  • Oral antihistamines , like diphenhydramine (such as Benadryl) or chlorpheniramine (such as Chlor-Trimeton), may relieve the itching, but they also can cause drowsiness. Don't give antihistamines to your child unless you've checked with the doctor first.
    • Read and follow any warnings on the label.
    • Avoid applying antihistamine, such as Benadryl cream, spray, or gel, or Caladryl lotion, to the skin. These products may further irritate your skin. Also, it is more difficult to control the dosage of medicine that is absorbed through the skin.

If the itching is severe and it interferes with sleep or other activities for more than 2 days, call your doctor to discuss your symptoms.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
Current as of March 12, 2014

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