Can't Get Rid of Pruritus?
Your Local Dermatologist Can Help

Pruritus (Itch)

Symptoms and Causes of Itching

Typically, an itch is only short term, but if it continues for six weeks or more, it can be considered a chronic itch. Board-certified dermatologists are trained to evaluate the severity of an itch, identify the cause and provide treatment. 

Itchy skin has many causes, whether its age, dry skin, reactions to medication, bug bites, reactions to certain clothing or cosmetic products, or changes in weather. Many skin diseases like hives or eczema can begin with itching. The most common cause of itching in babies and children is eczema. Itching can also be a sign of contagious disease like scabies, shingles or ringworm. Itching can also be an indication of internal disease too, like kidney disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer. 

See a dermatologist if you have:

  • An itchy rash
  • Growth on your skin that itches
  • Itching without an obvious cause
  • Nonstop or disrupting itching
  • Itching that makes you feel anxious or depressed

Relieving Itching At Home

  • Use a cold compress on itchy skin for five to 10 minutes.
  • Moisturize your skin often with a moisturizer that’s free of additives, fragrances and perfumes.
  • Take an oatmeal bath. This can also help sooth blisters or oozing skin from chickenpox, hives, poison ivy or sunburn.
  • Apply a cooling product like calamine or menthol. Keeping your moisturizer in the refrigerator can also create a cooling effect. 
  • Use wet wraps, which involves moisturizing your skin, wrapping it in wet bandages then covering with dry bandages. 
  • Consider an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream. Don’t use the cream for more than two weeks continuously without consulting a dermatologist.

Preventing Flare Ups

Avoid scratching as much as possible, this will only further irritate your skin and increase the risk of infection. You can also:

  • When bathing or showering, use lukewarm water (not hot) and a non-irritating cleanser/body wash with a low pH rather than soap. When drying off, pat yourself dry and only bathe once a day.
  • Use a moisturizing cream, lotion or ointment after bathing. 
  • Keep your fingernails trimmed to reduce the effects of scratching.
  • Wear loose, cotton clothes. Wool and other rougher fabrics can cause itching.
  • Keep your body temperature cooler and avoid extreme temperature changes. Use a humidifier in the winter if you’re prone to dry skin and eczema.

Diagnosing and Treating Itching


To diagnose an itch, your dermatologist will examine your skin and ask you some questions. Depending on your case, a blood test or skin biopsy may be recommended. If it’s suspected that your itch is being caused by an underlying disease, you may be referred to another doctor for additional evaluation. 

The recommended treatment will depend on the cause of your itch. If it’s being caused by a skin condition, a medicine to treat will be prescribed. This could include oral pills, topical medication or medicine injected via a shot. Ultraviolet light therapy may also be suggested an option. Oral antihistamines can relieve itch, but are not helpful for all types of itching. Your dermatologist can confirm if they will be helpful. Medication that targets your nerves or neurotransmitters may also be suggested, such as antiepileptic/anti-seizure drugs or antidepressants. An at-home skin care regimen may be recommended too.

Light Therapy

Originally developed for Navy seals to help wounds heal quicker, light therapy has been shown to be highly therapeutic for skin. Learn More

Oral and Topical Medications

Dermatologists are experts in bacterial, viral and fungal infections in the skin and have a deep knowledge of how to best use antibiotics, antiviral and antifungal medications. Learn More

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