The treatment for itching will largely depend on the cause.
Treatments may be available to help relieve an itch and reduce the risk of skin damage caused by scratching. You should ask your GP or pharmacist about what's most suitable for you.
Some lotions, creams and medications can help reduce itchiness. These are available over the counter from pharmacies or on a prescription from your GP.
Common treatments recommended include:
- an oily moisturiser or emollient if your skin is dry or flaky
- creams containing menthol to cool your skin or anti-itch ingredients such as crotamiton
- mild steroid cream (usually for only a few days) for small, inflamed areas – hydrocortisone cream is available from pharmacies over the counter, or your GP can prescribe a steroid cream for you
- antihistamine tablets to help control allergic reactions – check with your pharmacist or GP before using these because they are not suitable for everyone
Some antihistamine tablets can make you feel drowsy. This may be helpful if taken at night to help you sleep. After taking them, it's important that you do not to drive, use power tools or operate heavy machinery.
If you have itching in hairy areas such as your scalp, lotions are available specifically for these areas. This means that you don't have to use sticky creams.
There are also some more powerful medications, like antidepressants, which may be recommended if the above treatments don't help and your itch is particularly long-lasting.
What will happen at your GP appointment
Many cases of itching will get better over a short period of time.
Your GP will ask you about your symptoms. For example, if you have noticed whether anything makes your itch worse, or if your itch comes and goes. They will also examine your skin to look for any visible symptoms.
In some cases, they may take a skin scraping or a swab so it can be tested to help identify the cause of your itching. A blood test may also be carried out to look for underlying problems, such as thyroid or kidney disease.
Depending on what is found to be causing your itch, you may be referred to a hospital specialist for a further assessment and specific treatment.
How to reduce itching
If you experience troublesome itching, there are some things you can do that may help relieve it and prevent damage caused by scratching.