What Is Itching?
When the skin is irritated, you often feel like scratching. This is known as an itch or medically, it is called pruritus. Itching is a very common problem that everyone undergoes. Itching can be limited to a particular area of the body (localized) or occurring in different parts or all over your body (generalized).
Usually, generalized itching that occurs throughout the body is quite difficult to treat compared to a localised itch. Itching can occur with or without any redness, rashes, blisters, bumps or any visible signs on the skin, And, if you have an itch with some visible abnormality in the skin, then you should have it checked by your doctor.
What Are The Symptoms Of Itching?
Some of the symptoms associated with itching are:
- Dry skin, rashes
- Cracked skin, redness of the skin
- Flaky scalp
- Bumps appearing on the skin, spots on the skin
- Blisters, scaly or leathery skin texture
What Are The Causes Of Itching?
Itching can be caused due to several reasons such as:
- Dry skin (xerosis) due to over-exposure to heating or air conditioning, bathing or washing a lot, old age, etc.
- Sunburn (exposure to UV rays).
- Insect stings and bites (mosquitoes, fleas, ants, etc.).
- Infestations like hair lice, pubic lice.
- Skin problems such as psoriasis, atopic dermatitis (eczema), scabies, chickenpox, etc.
- Diseases and disorders like anemia, thyroid problems, hyperthyroidism, kidney failure, liver disease, cancers such as lymphoma, leukemia, etc.
- Allergic reactions to food, chemicals, soaps, poison ivy, cosmetics and other substances.
- Reactions to drugs such as antifungal drugs, medications for pain, antibiotics, etc.
- Exposure to the sun.
- Nerve disorders such as shingles, diabetes mellitus, multiple sclerosis, pinched nerves, etc.
- Anxiety, stress and other emotional conditions.
- Genital or anal itching caused due to STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), yeast infections in women, etc.
- Swimmer’s itch (cercarial dermatitis due to parasites released by snails in the sea and freshwater).
- Itching of the scalp due to psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, dandruff, etc.
What Are The Things One Should Do To Manage Itching?
- You can use a cold application to deaden the itch, as both the itch as well as the cold, travel the same path along the nerve fibers.
- You can pour cool running water over the affected area or place a cool cloth on the affected skin.
- You can have a cool shower.
- A cool bath with colloidal oatmeal or baking soda can provide relief from itching.
- You can apply an ice pack over the affected area.
- Make use of a soothing moisturizing cream or lotion on the affected area.
- Use gels or creams that provide a cooling effect to the skin such as calamine or some lotion with 1% menthol.
- Keep the affected area covered, so that you don’t scratch and bruise the area.
- Cut your nails short and wear gloves at night so that you don’t scratch the itching parts.
- Use sunscreen to prevent itching caused due to sunburn.
- Keep your skin well-hydrated with moisturizers to prevent itching due to dry skin.
- Take preventive measures to avoid STDs, lice infestations, tick infestations, etc. that can cause itching.
- Use a humidifier in your room, as the steam helps to soothe itching skin.
What Are The Things One Should Avoid To Manage Itching?
- Avoid a hot bath or shower, as it may provide temporary relief but make you feel a lot itchier later on.
- Avoid substances and things that aggravate the itching such as detergent, rough clothing, perfumed soap, jewelry, some cleaning product, etc.
- Avoid scratching the affected area, as this could lead to the parts becoming infected.
- Avoid stress as this worsens the itching.
- Avoid wearing polyester, wool or clothes made of synthetic materials as they cause the itching to worsen. Wear cotton clothes.
What Are The Best Foods For Itching?
- Having foods like spinach, wheat germ, corn, olives, seeds and nuts which are rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant, can help to protect the skin from free radicals and reduces itching.
- A deficiency of vitamin C can cause dry, scaly and rough skin which can cause inflammation and itching. Include foods rich in vitamin C such as oranges, green peppers, kiwi, grapefruit, broccoli, cabbage, etc.
- Vitamin A helps to produce sebum and prevent itching. So, it is a good idea to include foods such as milk, eggs, liver, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, etc. which are rich in vitamin A.
- If the itching is caused due to dry skin, then you must drink water and plenty of water and stay hydrated.
What Are The Worst Foods For Itching?
- If you are allergic to foods such as shellfish, fish, eggs, nuts, milk, peanuts, soy and wheat, it could cause itching. So, you must avoid these foods if you are allergic to any of them. For instance, if you’re allergic to wheat, then you should eliminate foods like bread, cereals, pasta, crackers, snack foods, etc.
- Certain foods like yeast, eggplant, spinach, mackerel, wine, tuna, etc. contain histamine, which can cause sensitivity and itching. So, it is a good idea to avoid these foods.
- Avoid alcohol and beverages containing caffeine as they cause dehydration and worsen the condition of itching.
What Are The Medicines For Itching?
What Are The Tips To Manage Itching?
Stress can make the condition of itching worse and you can use techniques such as meditation, counseling, behavior therapy and yoga to relieve stress.
Some home remedies to reduce or stop itching are:
- You can apply camphor or menthol over the itching are to numb the nerve endings and stop you from scratching.
- Adding baking soda to a tub of warm water and soaking in it for around 30-60 minutes can help to reduce itching. Also, you can make a paste with 3 parts of baking soda with 1 part water and apply it to the affected part can help to reduce itching.
- Applying a paste of oatmeal to the affected part can help to reduce itching. You can also add colloidal oatmeal to your bath water and soak in it to soothe the itching.
- You can soak some apple cider vinegar in cotton balls and apply it to the affected parts to reduce the itching. You can also soak in bath water with apple cider vinegar added to it to provide relief.
- Milk has inflammatory properties, so dipping a cloth in some milk and applying it to the affected part can help to soothe dry, inflamed and itchy skin.
- Heat some honey and apply it to the affected skin while it is still warm. Leave it for around 15 minutes and wash it off. Honey has anti-microbial and antioxidant properties that help to calm the itching.
- Essential oils such as calendula oil, lavender oil, chamomile oil, rosemary oil, thyme oil, nettle oil geranium oil, etc. have anti-inflammatory properties which can help to relieve itchy skin. You can add them directly to the skin or add it to your bath water.
- Rubbing almond, sesame, olive or coconut oil on the skin before a shower can help to reduce itching.
- Applying lemon juice on the itchy skin can help to reduce the irritation.
- Coconut milk can help to reduce dryness and relieve itching of the skin.
- A salve made by combining cloves, juniper berries, and some unsalted butter and applying it on the itchy skin can help in providing relief.
- Adding some dried basil to boiling water and applying the liquid to the itchy skin can provide relief as basil contains a topical anesthetic, eugenol, which is beneficial for itching.
- Make a mint tea by boiling mint leaves in water and applying the tea to the affected portion with a clean cloth can help to relieve itching as mint contains menthol that has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Thyme contains thymol which is an anesthetic and also has anti-inflammatory properties. Making tea with thyme in boiling water and applying it to the affected parts can soothe itching.
- Applying some juice of aloe vera can help to relieve itching.
- Glycerine draws water into the body and has a hydrating, cooling effect and helps to reduce itching.