Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
In this Article
- Itch facts
- What is an itch?
- What are associated symptoms and signs of itching?
- What causes itching?
- How is the cause of itching diagnosed?
- Should people scratch the itch?
- What are topical itch treatments? Are there any home remedies for itching?
- What are oral itch treatments?
- Can itching be prevented?
- When should the doctor be consulted for itching?
- What are possible complications of itching?
- What is the prognosis (outlook) for itching?
- Find a local Dermatologist in your town
What are oral itch treatments?
Traditionally, antihistamines are used to treat itch. Examples include diphenhydramine (Benadryl), hydroxyzine (Atarax), and chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton and others). These medicines can induce drowsiness in many people and must be used with care before driving a car or operating heavy machinery. Although antihistamines may help the itch, they seem to do so mainly by helping people fall asleep and avoid scratching at night. If falling or staying asleep is not your main problem, you may want to try one of the nonsedating antihistamines. Loratidine (Claritin) and fexofenadine (Allegra and others) are examples of newer second-generation antihistamines that are available without a prescription. The second-generation antihistamines do not have the sedating effects of the older first-generation antihistamines but they are not very effective in quelling the itch.
Can itching be prevented?
Itching can be prevented only to the extent that the underlying cause(s) of the itching can be prevented. For example, careful use of sunscreen products can prevent the itching associated with sunburn. Keeping well hydrated and using moisturizers can prevent the itch associated with dry skin. It is also possible to take preventive measures to avoid conditions like sexually transmitted diseases, tick or bug bites, or lice infestations that may be the sources of itching. Itching associated with serious conditions like cancers and liver or kidney disease cannot typically be prevented.
When should the doctor be consulted for itching?
If home treatment isn't helping, scratching is affecting the skin being scratched (infection, lichenification [thickening and scarring], or pigmentation), or the itch is disturbing one's sleep, consult a doctor to ascertain what's causing the itching. A doctor can also prescribe stronger cortisone-based creams (for eczemas and allergies) and prescription-grade antihistamines, if necessary, or treat the underlying condition that is causing the itch.
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