Itching may seem like nature’s way of driving you mad, but the sensation was actually designed to keep you safe. The urge is just your skin demanding attention to help protect it from an offender of some kind, like microbes or insects. It can start with a physical stimulus like a wool sweater that brushes against sensitive skin, or an internal stimulus like the release of histamine during an allergic reaction. It can even begin in your mind; seeing someone else scratching can make you feel itchy too!
No matter the trigger, C-fiber nerves that are located just below the skin’s surface are activated and send the urgent signal to itch to your brain. Scratching that spot may feel like utter bliss at first, but often only ends up making the feeling worse by further irritating your skin. And then the feeling returns with vengeance, stronger than ever. The better way to seek relief is to get to the root of the itch.
Most people can’t help but scratch a little. But before you get too carried away, seek out one of these longer-term solutions as soon as possible for lasting comfort.
Desert-dry skin, the most common cause of itching, needs moisture. Since lotions are more than 70 percent water and creams are about 50 percent, it’s wiser to go with the richer, more emollient cream base. Steer clear of highly fragranced formulas that can dry skin out with perfume and do more harm than good.
2. Use an antihistamine
The two biggest culprits of histamine-triggered itching are seasonal allergies and those annoying mosquito bites. Look for a non-sedating antihistamine for daytime relief that won’t make you feel drowsy. And don’t forget that bug spray next time!
3. Try a topical corticosteroid
This class of drug is similar to cortisol, a hormone your body produces to counter inflammation. Corticosteroids stop itching from inflammatory causes, like eczema, allergic reactions, poison ivy and rashes. Try an over-the-counter option, or see your dermatologist if they don’t bring relief.
4. Draw an oatmeal bath
Sometimes momma knows best: This home remedy really does work. Oatmeal is packed with natural anti-inflammatory properties that help soothe itchy skin. The oatmeal must be 100 percent colloidal to work most effectively. Sprinkle about a tablespoon under running tap water, and enjoy a warm soak for 15 to 20 minutes. Towel dry and immediately moisturize after stepping out of the tub to lock in hydration.