Itchy skin (pruritus) can be more than just uncomfortable and irritating. It can be a symptom of an underlying, internal problem such as liver disease or kidney failure. Although itchy skin spots normally are the result of simpler causes---poison ivy, poison oak or a chemical irritant from a cleaning product---they also could be symptoms of skin anomalies such as psoriasis or dermatitis. Itchy skin may appear normal or might have a red or bumpy appearance. Sometimes the redness or rash-like appearance is the result of scratching, which can, in itself, cause problems beyond the skin malady.
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Visit your doctor if your itching is localised and accompanied by lesions or other abnormalities. Your family doctor may or may not refer you to a dermatologist. If he diagnoses a condition such as eczema or scabies, he may send you to a specialist.
Keep your skin cool and moist if you have sunburn. Sunburn can cover large parts of the body or be localised due to exposure factors. Apply cold compresses and aloe or other moisturisers. Avoid sunburn treatments that contain medications such as benzocaine. There's little evidence that such products actually relieve pain, and they can irritate the skin, according to the Mayo Clinic. Take aspirin or another pain reliever instead. Don't pick at blisters or peel the skin.
Take a warm bath mixed with one can of evaporated milk, which will soothe the itching. Baking soda and oatmeal can be used as complements, not substitutes, to the milk. Finely grind up about 2 cups of oatmeal and add to the water, along with 1 cup of baking soda. Cornstarch is another option (about 1 cup, in place of baking soda). Soak for at least 20 minutes, although you may not want to get out of the tub once the soothing properties of the milk bath take effect.
Apply a carbolic acid paste (baking soda and water) to the area that itches. Wrap the area with a towel or wash cloth. Leaving the compound in place overnight is recommended.
Drink one to two cups per day of nettle tea. Add boiling water to 1 tsp of dried nettle leaves per each cup brewed and steep for 15 minutes. Fresh stinging nettle oil also can be applied on the affected areas.
Expose the affected area to a sun lamp. Although sun lamps have been discredited as dangerous in their application as sun tan enhancers, short intervals of exposure for medical purposes can be beneficial. Limit the affected area's exposure to 15 minutes at a time. (Don't use this remedy for sunburn.)
Apply a store-bought lotion designed for itch relief. Creams and ointments such as anesthetics like lidocaine or benzocaine, or lotions such as menthol, camphor or calamine, can provide short-term relief. If the itch persists, you should visit your doctor to determine the underlying cause of the itch.
Use products designed for specific body itching, such as athlete's foot or jock itch. Anti-fungal creams, lotions and shampoos are available for these problems.
Tips and warnings
- Wash all towels or cloths that you've used to treat the itchy area. Do not use those items on other parts of your body.
- Avoid vigorous rubbing or scratching of the itchy area. This can result in broken skin, infections and the spreading of the itch to other parts of your body.
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