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How can I stop an itch?

Jill A. Grimes, MD
Family Medicine

If you have an itch or an insect bite or sting, try some over-the-counter topical hydrocortisone cream or ointment. Hydrocortisone cream is a steroid, but not the pump-you-up/Arnold Schwarzenegger type steroid. This is the anti-inflammatory steroid. Grab this when you need to stop an immediate irritation on the skin, such as bug bites or poison ivy. If you've got something new, red and itchy on your skin, very likely this cream will help.


Having said that, know that there certainly are infections or other skin conditions that will not improve with steroid cream and indeed can be made worse. Obviously, if your itchy rash is not rapidly improving, see your doctor.
Do not use hydrocortisone cream or ointment on your face or other tender parts. Limit your use primarily to your extremities (arms, legs, fingers, and toes) and trunk (back, chest, and belly).


Steroid creams are also not for long-term use, as they can cause thinning and damage to the skin if used chronically.

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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.