The treatment of an itch depends on the cause. In the majority of cases, the itch is only transient and easily treated by removing the offending irritant or allergen from the environment.
In cases where the itch is generalized, some type of investigations may be required. While the cause of the itch is being investigated, the symptomatic treatment of an itch consists of:
- Moisturizing agent such as baby oil or calamine lotion. Avoiding dry skin usually lessens the itch. The cream may have to be continued for a few weeks.
- Menthol/camphor: this lotion immediately provides cooling and soothing sensation
- Emollients: Emollients soften skin and moisturizers add moisture. They are used to correct dryness and scaling of the skin, These creams can even be used to treat fine lines and wrinkles on the body
- Corticosteroids: when the itch is moderate to severe and not responding to the above measures, one may apply over the counter topical steroids for a few days. In the majority of cases, steroids will diminish the itch
- Topical antihistamines are useless to treat itch and may Infact cause an allergic reaction.
In some cases, the itch is severe and unrelenting. When sleep is disturbed from persistent itching, other treatments may be required.
The best medications to treat moderate to severe itch are:
Tricyclics: The tricyclic anti depressants are excellent at the treatment of sever itch. These drugs have several actions and can also be useful in inducing sleep and relieving anxiety.
Anti histamines: Anti histamines are the cornerstone for severe itch. The oral medications available today are non sedating and useful in all types of itch. If pruritus is severe and sleep is disturbed, then treatment with oral medication may be necessary. Some drugs may help to relieve the itch whilst others are given solely for their sedative effect
Gabapentin. In some cases of itch, the anti seizure drug Gabapentin have been found to be effective in the treatment of itch. The drug can also suppress the other neurological symptoms like tremor, tingling and burning.
Other maneuvers to reduce itching is to
- reduce frequent showering and bathing
- shower in luke warm water
- minimize the use of soap and detergents
- apply moisturizer to the body soon after bathing
- for those who have the tendency to scratch, keep the finger nails short to avoid excoriations on the skin