Featured image: Washington University in St. Louis
Itching, whatever the cause, is a really unpleasant condition to have to manage. It is uncomfortable and a nagging irritation which if you are not able to relieve can become chronic and distressing, disrupting sleep and causing real anxiety and agitation.
What causes itching?
Itchy skin or itching is also called Pruritus and can be caused by so many different things; some are treatable and manageable but not necessarily curable like eczema and psoriasis whereas another itch might be the result of a bite or a sting and will pass with time.
Itching can also result from a reaction to some sort of allergens like a soap powder or material in clothing or from something ingested like shellfish or other form of seafood. Itching can accompany systemic illnesses like viruses which often manifest in a rash. Diseases like chickenpox are well known for their irritating and itchy spots. And stress can cause skin issues and stress and anxiety will almost always make skin issues worse even if they were not the original cause.
How to stop the itching
Itchy areas or rashes on the skin should first be examined to make sure they not the sign of an underlying serious health condition and if possible, the cause should be identified so it can be removed.
Sometimes, itchy lumps or areas are unavoidable like insect bites or conditions like Athlete’s Foot which is a frequent fungal problem causing intense itching between the toes.
Caladryl Skin Protectant is a highly-rated Calamine lotion and a great ointment to soothe itchy skin.
Itching can set up a vicious circle – the more you scratch, the more it itches and the more you want to scratch. Relieving the itching symptomatically whilst you wait for the cause to abate or disappear may be the only way you can gain some relief from the misery of itching. So, here are some home remedies which will help manage itching wherever it is and whatever the cause:-
- Itchy areas of skin are often hot and inflamed, so, cool the area with cold compresses or massage in cooling balms or gels. Essential oil blends can offer symptomatic relief from itching with certain oils having a particularly good reputation in this regard like peppermint oil. Peppermint oil contains menthol which is the key cooling element. Always remember that essential oils despite their natural profile are in fact very strong and should always be diluted first in a carrier or base oil before being applied to the skin
- Tepid or cool baths can help calm itching with either a cup of oatmeal added to the bathwater or two cups of Epsom Salts. Colloidal oatmeal is very fine oatmeal which will dissolve immediately in the bathwater
- Never rub the skin dry, just dab or pat it gently with a towel or just air dry
- Soothing Aloe Vera gel which has been kept in the fridge can cool itchy and hot skin before bed or Calamine lotion which is lovely and cooling and when dry does not leave a sticky residue on bed linen
- Wet wrap treatment can help provide long term relief and is particularly useful to settle children at nighttime so they drop off to sleep. Using gauze which is a soft fabric wrapped in a fine mesh so it won’t stick to skin, soak and wring out gauze pieces using cold water. Wrap around the hot and inflamed area and then cover with another wrap of dry gauze. These bandages can be secured and left on overnight and help apply continuous cold to seriously itchy areas
- Try not to let skin become too dry as this will almost invariably make it itchier
- Wear loose cotton clothing to avoid any form of overheating and restriction which will always make the itching worse particularly if the seams of clothing are pressing on the irritated area
- Make a fusion of essential oils including the cooling properties of eucalyptus, peppermint oil and oil of cloves, dab gently on the irritated area
- For an itchy scalp, the same blend of essential oils works well but add in some tea tree oil as well – this is a very cooling and soothing fusion to calm irritation and with antiseptic and anti-bacterial properties as well
- Apple cider vinegar also has a positive effect on an itchy scalp often a common problem for psoriasis sufferers. Dilute the vinegar in water in a ratio of 1:1, apply to the scalp and then leave to dry before rinsing with tepid water
- For Athlete’s Foot, choose essential oils with noted anti-fungal properties to help clear up the condition – favorites are peppermint, geranium, eucalyptus and tea tree
- One of the most beneficial ways to stop the itch of Athletes Foot is to keep feet as cool as possible so losing socks and wearing sandals at home allowing air to circulate whilst being mindful not to spread the problem to other members of the household so no bare feet
- Avoid commercial products with artificial fragrances coming into contact with the irritated skin as this can make the reaction worse
Getting relief: Itching is about management
The way to control itching is to diagnose the cause and then remedy it and in the meantime, manage and quell the symptoms so that you can tolerate the problem until it resolves. It is always important to understand the causation in order to ensure that an itchy rash is not the herald of a potentially serious illness or disease.
Itching can be almost completely managed with home remedies but you do have to be persistent. Some conditions itch insanely forever it seems and if you cannot find any relief then the desire to scratch the skin will become almost overwhelming, particularly for small children. Scratching itchy skin can also cause small tears or skin lesions which may then become prone to infection.