Treatments and drugsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Once a cause is identified, treatments for itchy skin may include:
- Corticosteroid creams. Applied topically, these may control itching. Your doctor may recommend applying the medicated cream to affected areas, then covering these areas with damp cotton material that has been soaked in water or other solutions. The moisture in the wet dressings helps the skin absorb the cream.
- Oral antihistamines. These include oral antihistamines for allergies or hives and corticosteroid creams for itching from skin inflammation.
Treating the underlying disease
If an internal disease is found, whether it's kidney disease, iron deficiency or a thyroid problem, treating that disease often relieves the itch. Other itch-relief methods also may be recommended.
Light therapy (phototherapy)
Phototherapy involves exposing your skin to certain wavelengths of ultraviolet light. Multiple sessions are usually scheduled until the itching is under control.
Although many types of itching respond well to treatment, relief may not be immediate. However, a number of creams and ointments are specifically designed to relieve itch. These include short-term use of:
- Topical anesthetics such as lidocaine or benzocaine
- Ointments and lotions such as menthol, camphor or calamine
Benzocaine has been linked to a rare but serious, sometimes deadly, condition that decreases the amount of oxygen that the blood can carry. Don't use benzocaine in children younger than age 2 without supervision from a health care professional, as this age group has been the most affected. If you're an adult, never use more than the recommended dose of benzocaine and consider talking with your doctor.
Although these anti-itch products may immediately soothe your itch, treatment of the underlying cause is most important for long-term relief.
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- Benzocaine topical products: Sprays, gels and liquids — risk of methemoglobinemia. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm250264.htm. Accessed Apr. 8, 2011.