Itching, medically called pruritus, can be caused by dry skin, pregnancy and a number of disorders, including skin disease, infection, and, rarely, cancer.
In addition, various medications can cause itching as a side effect.
Who gets itching?
Anyone can get itching but certain groups of people are more susceptible to the condition, including:
- People with allergies, including hayfever, asthma and eczema
- People with diabetes
- People with HIV/AIDS and various types of cancer
- Pregnant women
- Elderly people
The best way to prevent itching is to take care of your skin. This includes protecting your skin from excessive damage. Methods for protecting your skin include the following:
- Use skin creams and lotions that moisturise your skin and prevent dryness.
- Use sunscreens regularly to prevent sunburn and skin damage.
- Use mild bath soap and laundry detergent that won't irritate your skin.
- Take a bath in warm, not hot, water to and avoid making your skin too dry.
- Avoid certain fabrics, such as wool and synthetics that can make your skin itch. Switch to cotton clothing and bed sheets.
- Since warm, dry air can make your skin dry, keep the thermostat in your house or flat down.
- To relieve itching, place a cool flannel or some ice over the area that itches, rather than scratching.
How is itching treated?
Finding the cause of the itching and treating any underlying skin disease is the first step.
If a reaction to a medicine is suspected, switching to a different medication may be helpful to reduce the itching.
Moisturising the skin, and not scratching the skin, helps relieve itching.
Placing a cool flannel or some ice over the area that itches.
Your doctor may also recommend medication to treat the itching, including antihistamines and topical steroids. Rarely, steroid pills and antibiotics may also be needed.