Relief From Itching

Home treatment can often relieve discomfort and itching.

  • Keep the itchy area cool and moist. Apply washcloths soaked in ice water. But remember that repeated wetting and drying will actually dry your skin.
  • Keep cool and stay out of the sun. Heat increases itching.
  • Avoid taking a hot shower or bath. Keep the water as cool as you can tolerate.
  • Try an oatmeal bath to help relieve itching.
    • Wrap 1 cup of oatmeal in a cotton cloth and boil as you would to cook it. Use this as a sponge, and bathe in cool water without soap.
    • You may also try a commercial product, such as Aveeno Colloidal Oatmeal bath.
  • Try a nonprescription 1% hydrocortisone cream for small itchy areas.
    • Use the cream very sparingly on the face or genitals.
    • If itching is severe, your doctor may prescribe a stronger cream.
  • Use a nonprescription antihistamine medicine, such as chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton) or diphenhydramine (Benadryl).
  • Avoid dry skin, which will worsen itching caused by a rash. Apply a moisturizer or calamine lotion to the skin while it is damp. Dry skin may make itching worse. For more information, see the topic Dry Skin and Itching.
  • Avoid scratching as much as possible. Scratching leads to more scratching. Cut nails short or wear cotton gloves at night to prevent scratching.
  • Wear cotton or silk clothing. Avoid wearing wool and acrylic fabrics next to your skin.
  • Use as little soap as possible. Use gentle soaps, such as Aveeno, Cetaphil, or Dove. Avoid deodorant soaps when you have a rash.
  • Try washing your clothes with a mild detergent such as Cheer Free & 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.
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer W. Thomas London, MD - Hepatology
Last Revised October 29, 2012

Last Revised: October 29, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2013 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.