Are anti-itch medications safe and effective?

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Over-the-counter anti-itch ointments are safe and effective if you follow directions. They are designed for the temporary relief of itching, not as a long-term solution. A common active ingredient is hydrocortisone, a steroid, which may cause side effects; if you use it too long, it can make your skin thinner and more susceptible to irritation and infection. That's why you should apply it only three or four times a day -- and for no more than seven days straight, unless you have consulted your doctor. One indirect danger of relying on over-the-counter anti-itch ointments is that they can mask medical conditions that may be causing your itchiness, such as kidney failure, an overactive or underactive thyroid gland, iron deficiency or a pinched nerve. Your doctor should be able to diagnose the source of your itch.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.