Overview

Itching
Itching

Itchy skin is not usually a sign of anything serious. You can often treat it yourself and it will usually go away after a few weeks.

How to treat itchy skin yourself

Sometimes, itching is simply caused by dry, cracked or irritated skin. There are some simple things you can do to help ease the itching.

These things may also help stop itchy skin returning and avoid skin damage from scratching.

Do:

  • pat or tap the skin instead of scratching it
  • hold something cool on the skin, like a damp towel
  • have cool or warm baths or showers
  • use an unperfumed moisturiser or emollient regularly
  • keep your nails clean, short and smooth
  • wear loose cotton clothing
  • use a laundry liquid or powder that's for sensitive skin

Don't:

  • do not wear tight clothes, or clothes made from wool or some synthetic fabrics
  • do not spend a long time in the bath or shower
  • do not use perfumed soaps, deodorants or moisturisers

A pharmacist can help with itchy skin

A pharmacist can recommend the best products to help with itchy skin.  For example, creams, lotions or a medicine called antihistamine.

Tell them where your skin is itchy and if you have any other symptoms.

They might also be able to tell you:

  • what you can do to treat it yourself
  • if you need to see a GP

Find a pharmacy

See a GP if your itchy skin:

  • is affecting your daily life
  • does not get better with self-care or it keeps coming back
  • is caused by a new rash, lump or swelling and you're worried about
  • is all over your body; this could be a sign of something more serious

Treatment from a GP

A GP might prescribe creams, lotions or tablets depending on what's causing the itching.

They will look at your skin and ask about your symptoms.

The GP might arrange a blood test, or wipe a cotton bud over the area of itchy skin (a swap), or gently scrape off some skin cells, so they can be tested. This can help find the cause of your itchy skin.

A GP may also refer you to see a doctor who specialises in skin problems (dermatologist).

Causes of itchy skin

Itchy skin has many possible causes. If you have other symptoms (such as a rash or swelling) this might help to find the cause.

But do not try to diagnose yourself.  See a GP if you're worried.

Possible causes and common examples

  • Skin reactions to heat or something you're allergic to - common examples of these are allergies, hives, prickly heat
  • Long term skin conditions - common examples are dandruff, eczema, psoriasis
  • Fungal skin infections - common examples are thrush, ringworm, athlete's foot
  • Parasites or insects living in the skin - common examples are scabies, head lice, pubic lice

Itchy skin is also common during pregnancy or after the menopause. This is caused by hormonal changes and usually gets better over time.

In rare cases, itchy skin can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as thyroid, liver or kidney problems.

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The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website nhs.uk
Last Updated: 07/05/2021 13:06:02