How can I treat my itchy skin with medication or other measures?

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Lee A. Kaplan, MD
Dermatology
Your doctor may prescribe one or more of several available treatments for itchy skin, including lotions, anesthetics, corticosteroids, antihistamines, or phototherapy, which uses ultraviolet light to control the itch. If the itch is symptomatic of a more serious condition, your doctor may need to treat an underlying health issue.

The more you scratch your skin, the itchier it gets. The epidermis will get thicker, and as a result, itchier. Break the cycle. If you can’t help but scratch, pick, and play with an inflamed or scabbed area, try an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream twice a day. You can also try ice, covering the area with a band-aid, or look for an over-the-counter anti-itch product that contains pramoxine.

From The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Less Stress, Gorgeous Skin, and a Whole New You by Amy Wechsler.

Start with the safest treatments for itchy skin, such as cold compresses, lukewarm baths and moisturizers. Cut your nails short so that you don't hurt yourself if you scratch, and wear loose-fitting clothing.

Anti-itch medications can provide temporary relief from your itchiness. If you use a topical medication containing hydrocortisone or pramoxine (often found in products for insect bites or poison ivy), apply it according to the package directions. Gently rub the medication into your skin only on the spots that are itchy. Use as little hydrocortisone-based medication as you need to get relief, and then wash your hands (unless you are treating itchy hands). Do not cover up the area where you have applied the topical medication, as this may cause more of the drug to be absorbed, which could increase side effects. Do not apply the medication to your face. Do not use it more than three or four times a day, or for more than seven days in a row, without calling your doctor.