Tips for dealing with itchy skin
- If your skin is dry use a simple moisturiser, such as aqueous cream, twice a day. A combination of aqueous cream and menthol can be helpful. If you store the cream in the fridge it will feel cool and soothing when applied.
- If hot water makes the itching worse, take cool or lukewarm baths or showers. Try adding an emollient (moisturising solution) such as Oilatum® to bath water, and use aqueous cream instead of soap. A little baking soda added to bath water can also help. After bathing, apply emollients or aqueous cream while your skin is still damp.
- Protect your skin from the damage caused by scratching. Keep your nails clean and short, and rub rather than scratch the itchy area.
- Avoid things that may irritate the skin or make itching worse, such as biological washing powders, scented soaps, bubble baths and products containing lanolin.
- Keep cool by wearing light, natural fibres such as cotton, and by keeping the atmosphere around you cool but not too dry. Avoid alcohol and hot spicy foods and drinks.
- Use other activities to try to distract you from the itching. Relaxation techniques may help you cope.
- Sometimes acupuncture or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) can reduce itching. The aim of TENS is to stimulate the nerves reaching the brain, and so block out the sensation of itching. Acupuncture and TENS treatments are given at some NHS hospitals.
Itching can be difficult to control, but there are medicines that may help. If a particular medicine is the cause, an alternative drug may be prescribed. For some liver problems there are specific medicines that can control itching. Your doctor can discuss these with you.
Some drugs that may be helpful include:
- Antihistamine tablets or lotion
- A short course of steroid cream or tablets
- Anti-inflammatory drugs, cimetidine, aspirin and thalidomide
- Drugs that affect blood pressure, such as propranolol
- Drugs that act on the nervous system, including anaesthetics, antidepressants, anti-epileptic drugs, sedatives and some types of painkiller
- An anti-sickness drug called ondansetron.