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Common Causes and Treatments for Itchy Skin

Updated on June 1, 2012
Mosquitoes and other bug bites can cause itchy skin.
Mosquitoes and other bug bites can cause itchy skin. | Source

What is pruritus?

Pruritus is the medical term for itchy skin. Itchy skin can be a common yet annoying occurrence for most people at some point in their lives. Most of the time itchy skin is minor and temporary. However it can be very uncomfortable. So what are some common causes of itchy skin and how can one find relief?

What has caused my itchy skin?

There are many questions that you can ask yourself to help to determine the cause of your pruritus.

  1. Have I changed soap, detergent, deodorant, or perfume?
  2. Have I exposed my skin to different weather elements such as intense sun or high winds?
  3. Have I been exploring in nature and been exposed to bug bites or poison oak, ivy or sumac?
  4. Am I under unusual stress that may be causing hives?
  5. Have I come in contact with someone who has had ringworm or chicken pox?
  6. Have I changed medications recently?
  7. Is my itching throughout my body or is it localized?
  8. Are there any redness, rashes, or sores associated with my itchiness?

Thinking about these questions will help you to determine whether the pruritus is minor and can be treated with over the counter medications or if you need to consult a physician.

Aloe vera plants provide relief to dry and itchy skin.  It is perfect for dryness from sunburned skin.
Aloe vera plants provide relief to dry and itchy skin. It is perfect for dryness from sunburned skin. | Source

Reasons For Itchy Skin

There are many types of itchy skin that people may experience.

  • dry skin
  • hives
  • psoriasis
  • jock itch
  • vaginal itching
  • bug bites
  • ringworm
  • eczema
  • chicken pox
  • sunburns
  • poison ivy, oak or sumac

Home Remedies for Itchy Skin

  • Milk Bath: add 1-2 cups of milk to a lukewarm bath
  • Witch Hazel: Use a cotton ball to apply to the irritated area.
  • Licorice root: Use as a compress on the itchy skin.
  • Chamomile tea: Apply a compress soaked in the tea to the skin.
  • Aloe Vera: Use the thick liquid from the inside of the leaves to apply to the irritated skin.

Remedies for Pruritus

The cause of your itchy skin will determine the remedy that you should follow for your discomfort. In most cases you would use some type of over the counter or home remedy solution to help relieve the discomfort of your itchy skin. However, if there is no known explanation for the itchiness or if you have a history of nerve or internal disorders then it is important to consult a physician regarding your symptoms. This may be the result of a bigger problem that will need more in depth medical treatment.

It is also important to know that scratching is most likely going to make the problem worse. Scratching can lead to broken skin which could lead to infections. So what are some ways that you can relieve the itchy skin that you are experiencing?

Over the Counter Medications for Itch Relief

  • Corticosteroids: Hydrocortisone creams such as Cortaid or Cortizone
  • Antihistamines: Benadryl, Zyrtec, or Clariton
  • Anti-fungal: Lotrimin
  • Calamine lotion: contains zinc oxide

Relief Guide for Itchy Skin

Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac
wash oily toxins from skin, antihistamine, oatmeal bath
Dry Skin
apply think cream with moisturizer, keep air humid, use moisturizing soap, and fragrance free detergents and soaps
Use an over the counter antihistamine, consult a physician if the condition is chronic or worsens, don't scratch
over the counter benzocaine or lidocaine, aloe vera
oral antihistamine
moisturizer, topical corticosteriods, for more severe cases consult a physician
Jock Itch
anitfungal creams
Vaginal Itch
over the counter medicines such as vagisil, baking soda baths *This is for external use only. For internal itching, consult a physician.
Bug Bites
antihistamine, topical cortisol creams
consult a physician for treatment


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    • travel_man1971 profile image

      Ireno Alcala 

      8 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

      Right now, what causes my skin to be itchy is the throng of thorny caterpillars (of moth family) right the leaves of the tropical cherry tree inside our backyard. :)

      Yes, aloe vera is an effective itch reliever but my mom used to dab talcum powder on the itchy parts when we're younger and it also eased the itch.

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 

      8 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      Itchy skin is a pest. For some reason it effects just about everything because being that uncomfortable makes you irritable. This hub has some great tips!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Michigan

      Oh I hope that some of these remedies can be of help for your husband. I can only imagine how uncomfortable that can be for him. Thanks for your visit.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Clara, thanks for the useful tips here, which I shall be sharing with my husband. He's got eczema and this will definitely be useful!!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks DzyMsLizzy. I get a mild case of hives very frequently as a matter of fact from nerves. It is uncomfortable but goes away pretty quickly once I relax and in most cases I don't need to take anything for it. Glad you stopped by to read and comment.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Michigan

      Yes, it does include athlete's foot and I meant to add that one. Thanks for the reminder! :)

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Michigan

      That's what I was thinking when I wrote this Marcy! I know that in my experience summertime brings out all kinds of crazy things that our skin is exposed to. I hope this helps people out. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Michigan

      Grab some benadryl and you'll be all set! Glad you liked the table!

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Michigan

      Glad you found the treatments helpful. I wanted it to be as comprehensive as possible! Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks Jenna. Glad to have you read and comment.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Michigan

      Poor little guys! :( Thankfully my kids don't suffer from eczema but my son did have really severe diaper rash and that always broke my heart. Glad that you've found something to help keep it under control.

    • cardelean profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Michigan

      That's kind of what I was thinking when I wrote it Rebecca. I know that we are always fighting those stinking mosquitoes! Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      8 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Well done--and very informative.

      I've had hives twice in my life, from two highly divergent causes--the first, when I was a child, from over-indulging in hard candies at the holidays; the second from stress as a thirty-something when my kids were young.

      It might be helpful to know that "jock itch" and "athlete's foot" are very closely related problems. As a female, I've never suffered the former--and the latter, never as a child, even though we were using public swimming has become a problem as I've aged, and I'm no longer hanging around public pools, so I wonder if stress can cause that, as well.

      Great hub--voted up, interesting and useful.

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 

      8 years ago from Illinois

      Great idea for the coming summer months, Cara. Not all on your list are related to hot weather but it does help to have info on bug bites, sunburn and - for those sweaty sporty days - jock itch, which I think is the same sort of 'fungus' that is for athlete's foot as well.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      8 years ago from Planet Earth

      An excellent hub, and so well presented! I like your chart of typical causes and effective treatments. This is helpful as we approach summer (bathing suits, sand fleas, allergies, etc!).

      Voted up and up!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Wow--"SURPRISE!" Didn't expect to see this topic and reading it made me start to itch! haha. I love that you put the medical term for itching, because in my hub I was going to add that term (without definition) and then nixed the idea. :)

      This was a 'to the point' hub and I loved the info in the table you provided. Rated up.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      8 years ago from USA

      Excellent hub. I like that you included treatments for the various conditions. That is a real plus.

    • Jenna Pope profile image

      Jenna Pope 

      8 years ago from Southern California

      Very good hub. I liked the treatments you listed. Voted up.

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 

      8 years ago from Western New York

      Both of my boys suffer from itchy skin - poor little guys both have eczema that peaks in the fall and spring seasons. They probably have environmental allergies - we definitely use lots of aveeno oatmeal bath and moisturizing lotion in the drier months!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      8 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Very comprehensive summary of itchy skin causes. Summer is coming and I suppose we will trade the dry skin itch in for the insects itch. Mosquitoes, bothersome little devils will drive us nuts all summer.Great looking Hub, well arranged. Voted up, very useful and shared!


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