Treating it according to the underlying causes. In a superficial sense, all itching is the same: an irritation of the skin that produces an urge to scratch. Its possible causes, however, are many; remedial measures depend on the source. If you buy an over-the-counter remedy, avoid products containing benzocaine or a combination of calamine and antihistamine; they may only compound the problem.
Persistent or generalized itching maybe a symptom of internal disease (diabetes, blood or liver disease, parasitic infection, for example). In such a case, it’s best to consult a doctor.
In cold weather the cause may simply be dry skin; for this, moisturizing cream, lotion, bath oil, or plain mineral oil may be effective treatment.
In summer the possible causes multiply. A frequent culprit is prickly heat, best treated by keeping the skin cool and dry. This is the season, too, for itchy rashes that are caused by allergic contact dermatitis. Other summer sources of itchiness are insect bites and stings and sunburn.
At any time of year, household products or chemicals can cause itching. An over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream applied several times a day will relieve discomfort; better yet, shun the offending substance.
In addition, itching may affect the feet or the anus. If anal itching is a problem, the victim and his or her entire family should be checked bya doctor promptly. Elimination of the problem requires medication and scrupulous personal and household hygiene.
Itching in the groin area (jock itch), the armpits and, in women, in the folds of the breast may be caused by fungi or bacteria. Prevent or treat early signs of irritation in these areas by keeping them dry and dusting with antifungal powder. To relieve itching, apply a compress of Burow’s solution (1:40 concentration) three times a day for 10 minutes at a time. Do not use petroleum jelly, foot powder, or antifungal ointment intended for the feet.
In women, itchiness in the genital area, especially itchiness accompanied by abnormal discharge, maybe a sign of a vaginal or vulvar infection. Such a condition calls for immediate medical attention.