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Itching is a common skin complaint and, in the majority of cases, is usually not a sign of anything more serious going on. Many things can irritate the skin and all ages can experience itchy skin at any point in their life.
If the skin is irritated, it usually takes a few weeks for the condition to go away. However, sometimes, other skin conditions may affect its severity.
It is usually possible to treat the causes of concerns at home. However, if the itching becomes more prevalent over time, visiting a GP is the best option.
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Most commonly, people start itching as the skin is reacting to an allergy. Many types of allergies can cause this reaction. It is said that 1 in 4 people may experience allergies at some point in their life. In most cases it’s something they were not allergic to before.
Change In Temperature
The skin reacts to changes in temperature. In some cases, the immune system overreacts to extremes and can cause itchiness, such as hives, or chilblains.
People that suffer from long-term skin conditions will experience itching throughout their life. This can be caused by conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, and they are typically managed by topical medication to prevent soreness and dry skin.
Fungal Skin Infections
Fungal infections on the skin can be frequent, and one of the most well-known complaints is Athlete’s Foot. These conditions see bacteria cause itchy, sore, and cracked skin. Fungal infections can often be treated at home, but if left untreated, it can cause more severe skin complaints.
Parasites can be found living on the skin and can cause itching and irritation. Some examples of parasites include head lice, scabies, and pubic lice.
Pregnancy and Menopause
Changes in hormones throughout pregnancy and menopause can sometimes cause itchy skin. This is generally temporary and gets better as time goes by.
Serious Health Issues
In rare cases, itchy skin can be a sign of severe health conditions. This includes kidney, liver, or thyroid issues.
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Most obviously, the main symptom of itchy skin is itching! However, it is advisable to monitor other symptoms you may have to be able to treat the cause of the itch correctly.
Itchy skin can present itself with swelling, or lumps, and may also appear all over the body. In these cases, speaking with a GP is the best option.
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It may seem impossible when you are experiencing a flare-up, but scratching can make the itch worse and damage the skin. Instead, try patting the affected area to “calm” the irritation.
Avoid Hot Baths
A bath may help soothe the skin, however, avoid steaming hot water, as this will irritate the skin further.
Place a Damp Cloth on the Skin
A damp cloth, or towel, is a great way to soothe affected areas and alleviate itching.
Avoid Tight Clothing
Tight clothing that rubs and restricts airflow can elevate the need to scratch the affected area. By wearing loose clothing, it will ensure the area is free of irritation.
Wash Clothing in Detergent For Sensitive Skin
Laundry detergents are a common cause of skin irritation. To avoid irritation, try sensitive skin options that are kinder to the skin.
Prescribed Treatment by a GP
In some cases, prescribed treatments from a doctor may be required. They will diagnose the condition and may take a swab of the affected area, or arrange blood tests to identify the issue. There are several ways to treat itchy skin. Conventional treatments available include topical ointments and tablets, but these will be dependent on the actual itching symptoms. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist such as a dermatologist to help you manage the condition.
Preventing Itchy Skin
Sometimes, it’s not possible to avoid itchy skin. However, there are things you can do to try and prevent outbreaks, such as:
Wear breathable, natural fibres. Many items of clothing are made from synthetic materials, and these don’t do a great job of letting the skin breathe. If you can, try to opt for natural fibres, such as cotton, or linen.
Avoid Long Baths or Showers
We mentioned above that hot baths should be avoided. It’s also the time actually spent bathing that contributes to some skin irritation.
Reduce the Use Of Scented Soaps and Deodorants
Perfumed products can have adverse reactions on the skin, especially people that have sensitive skin. Try to stick to gentler products that have fewer chemicals to prevent irritation and itching.
Identify Allergy Triggers
As itchy skin can be attributed to several allergies, identifying the triggers can help avoid itching. In many cases, you can treat the symptoms of an allergy at home, for example, with antihistamine tablets. In extreme cases, allergies can cause anaphylaxis.
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Medical terms are often baffling and difficult to fully understand. To help, we have listed some frequently used terms below.
Anaphylaxis – a life-threatening allergic reaction
Antihistamine – medicines used to relieve the symptoms of allergies
Chilblains – small, itchy patches on the skin typically experienced when in cold conditions
Eczema – a skin condition that makes the skin dry, cracked and itchy
Hives – an itchy rash that may also burn, or sting
Psoriasis – a skin disease that causes red scaly patches to appear on the skin