What is itching?
Itching is an irritating sensation that makes you want to scratch your skin. Sometimes it can feel like pain, but it is different. Often, you feel itchy in one area in your body, but sometimes you may feel itching all over. Along with the itching, you may also have a rash or hives.
What causes itching?
Itching is a symptom of many health conditions. Some common causes are:
- Allergic reactions to food, insect bites, pollen, and medicines
- Skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and dry skin
- Irritating chemicals, cosmetics, and other substances
- Parasites such as pinworms, scabies, head and body lice
- Liver, kidney, or thyroid diseases
- Certain cancers or cancer treatments
- Diseases that can affect the nervous system, such as diabetes and shingles
What are the treatments for itching?
Most itching is not serious. To feel better, you could try:
- Applying cold compresses
- Using moisturizing lotions
- Taking lukewarm or oatmeal baths
- Using over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or antihistamines
- Avoiding scratching, wearing irritating fabrics, and exposure to high heat and humidity
Contact your health care provider if your itching is severe, does not go away after a few weeks, or does not have an apparent cause. You may need other treatments, such as medicines or light therapy. If you have an underlying disease that is causing the itching, treating that disease may help.
- Scratching the Surface on Skin Allergies (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology) - PDF
Statistics and Research
- Untangling the Source of Ouch and Itch (National Institute of General Medical Sciences)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Pruritus (National Institutes of Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
Find an Expert
- American Academy of Dermatology
- Find a Dermatologist (American Academy of Dermatology)
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Also in Spanish