How to Stop Itching

Itching can be irritating and frustrating. You may itch because of an:

The best way to stop the itch is to figure out what caused it. Then you can find the right treatment(s).

This article will walk you through the causes of itchiness and how to relieve them with medication or home remedies. 

Where Are You Itching?

Itchy eyes
Itchy face, eyes, nose. Getty Images

Where you itch can offer clues to the cause. It can be in/on your: 

A skin itch may be all over (generalized) or in one location (localized).

LOCATION  CAUSES SYMPTOMS
Eyes Allergies (hay fever) Redness, stinging, watering
Pink eye Burning, redness, tearing, blurred vision, swollen eyelids, crusty discharge
Common cold Irritation, watering
Contact lenses Irritation, infection
Nose  Allergies (hay fever) Sneezing, congestion, runny nose
Common cold Sneezing, congestion, runny nose
Throat  Allergies (hay fever) Congestion, cough, wheezing, shortness of breath
Food allergies Scratchiness, swelling, wheezing
Common cold Cough, congestion, sore throat
Asthma Cough, tightness, wheezing, shortness of breath
Face  Allergies (hay fever) General itch
Dry skin General itch, flakiness
Eczema Itchy, red rash, rough or scaly skin, small fluid-filled blisters, cracked skin, oozing, crusting
Skin Allergic contact dermatitis Rash where allergen touches, local itch
Dry skin General itch, flakiness
Eczema Itchy, red rash, rough or scaly skin, small fluid-filled blisters, cracked skin, oozing, crusting
Fungal infection Extremely itchy patches
Rash Many types exist, may be general or local itch, blisters, discoloration
Parasites Many types exist, usually a local itch
Insect bites/stings Local itch, burning, bump(s) at the site
Chickenpox Fluid-filled blisters that scab over. May cover the whole body.

An itch in your genital area could be from several types of infections. These include basic skin irritation to a sexually transmitted infection (STI). See your healthcare provider.

Causes

Itchy nose
Itchy nose. Getty Images

Some common causes of itching include:

If itching is persistent and bothersome, contact your healthcare provider to get an accurate diagnosis.

Medications

allergy medicine
Allergy medication. BSIP/UIG/Getty Images

Once you know what's causing the itch, you can figure out how to treat it. Medications that help relieve itching include:

  • Antihistamines (allergy pills): Benadryl (diphenhydramine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), Claritin (loratadine), Clarinex (desloratadine), Allegra (fexofenadine).
  • Anti-itch creams: Topical corticosteroids may be helpful for small itchy areas. like those from bug bites.
  • Antibiotics: For bacterial skin infections. may require antibiotics.

If itching is caused by a medication you take, ask your healthcare provider about different options. 

If you have trouble breathing, facial or tongue swelling, or vomiting accompanied by hives, get emergency medical attention. These are signs of anaphylaxis. That's a life-threatening allergic reaction.

Treatment Without Medication

lotion
Lotion or moisturizer may help with itching skin. RunPhoto/Taxi Japan/Getty Images

You have plenty of non-drug option as well. A lot of things can help soothe your itchy skin. They include:

  • Cold compresses
  • Lukewarm baths
  • Lotions or moisturizers
  • Mild soap
  • Oatmeal bath

If you itch because of dry skin, moisturizing with a cream or petroleum-based moisturizer may bring relief.

Things to avoid if you have itchy skin are:

  • Irritating fabrics, especially wool and polyester
  • High heat
  • Humidity
  • Long hot baths, which can dry your skin
  • Bubble baths
  • Powders
  • Cornstarch
  • Scratching

It may be hard not to scratch. But that can irritate your skin more. It may also spread the problem and put you at risk of infection.

Summary

Itches come from many causes. To pick the right treatment, make sure you know the cause of your itchiness.

You may need your healthcare provider to figure it out for sure. Medications can relieve an itch from some causes. Home remedies can help, too.

Avoid things that irritate your skin. Try not to scratch.

A Word From Verywell

An itch that won't go away can be really aggravating. Don't start trying different remedies right away, though. Some might make it worse.

Instead, take the time to figure out the cause and the correct treatments. That's the best way to get relief.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can you stop itchiness from poison ivy?

    Lukewarm baths with colloidal oatmeal or a cup of baking soda can ease the itch. If it continues, use cool compresses.

    For mild itching, use calamine lotion. For a more intense itch, use hydrocortisone cream. Oral antihistamines can also help.

  • Are there over-the-counter treatments for eczema?

    Yes. Over-the-counter antihistamines and steroid creams can help reduce eczema symptoms. They don’t require a prescription. But these medications can cause side effects and aren't safe for everyone. Talk to your healthcare provider about what's best for you.

  • Can essential oils relieve itchiness safely?

    Yes. Diluted peppermint oil applied to itchy skin can reduce itchiness from myriad causes. Used correctly, it doesn’t seem to cause any side effects.

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12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cold versus flu

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  10. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Poison ivy, oak, and sumac: How to treat the rash.

  11. National Eczema Association. Over the counter.

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Additional Reading
  • American Academy of Family Physicians: FamilyDoctor.org. Pruritis.  

  • National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute. Pruritis (PDQ).

  • National Institutes of Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Itching.