Itchy skin

Itchy skin is not usually a sign of anything serious. You can often treat it yourself and it should go away within 2 weeks. 


Many skin conditions itch, including dry skin (xerosis), eczema (dermatitis), psoriasis, scabies, burns, scars, insect bites and hives. Itchy skin can also be a symptom of an underlying illness.


APPOTEK can help you with itching skin.


A common cause of itching is dry skin. We often have problems with dry skin during the winter when it is cold outside and the humidity is low, both indoors and outdoors. Other common causes of itchy skin include hives and various diseases that cause skin inflammation, such as eczema and psoriasis. 


Here is an overview of more common causes:


Scabies is an itchy skin condition caused by a tiny burrowing mite called Sarcoptes scabiei. Intense itching occurs in the area where the mite burrows – often between the fingers, around the wrists, in the armpits and genital area. In cases of scabies, everyone in the family should be treated to prevent the spread of infection. There are non-prescription medicines for scabies that you can purchase at pharmacies.


Fungal infections often cause itching. There are several different infections, such as athlete’s foot and ringworm that can cause itchy skin. At pharmacies you will find non-prescription drugs to treat the fungus. Ask for advice to get the product that suits you best.


Chickenpox and other viral rashes – Chickenpox is a very contagious childhood disease. The disease often begins with mild fever, headache and fatigue. After one or two days, a red rash – chicken pox – will appear which can itch a lot.


Insect bites are often harmless, but they can itch and hurt. You can find non-prescription drugs that relieve itching and pain at pharmacies.


Internal disorders can cause itching – for example, hepatitis, kidney disease and blood disorders.


Food can cause food allergies. If you are hypersensitive to any food, you may feel itching in and around your mouth when you eat something you cannot tolerate. Food allergies also often cause skin rashes and stomach problems. If you or your child has symptoms of food allergy, you should contact your doctor to find the cause.


Some medicines can cause the body to react with itching, for example, penicillin, birth control pills and insulin.


Stress not only causes headache and abdominal pain but can also cause itchy skin. Eczema, for example, gets worse during stress.


Impetigo is a harmless – but contagious – infection of the skin that primarily affects children. The infection often starts with sores that first appear as small red dots, then develop into fluid-filled, itchy blisters. The sore then breaks, dries and forms a yellowish-brown scab. The most common locations of sores include the face – behind the ears, around the nose or mouth – but they can also appear on other parts of the body.


Head lice mainly affect children; however, adults can also have lice. If you see lice or lice eggs in the hair and scalp, on the neck or behind the ears, you should consult a doctor. The most effective way to get rid of the lice is to combine using a nit comb and a medicated shampoo.


Seborrheic dermatitis causes an itchy rash with flaky scales. Both children and adults can get seborrheic dermatitis. It can develop on the scalp, behind the ears and in the skin folds. There are non-prescription medications that relieve the symptoms.


Genital Itching


Anal fissure occurs when there is a small tear in the moist tissue of anus. The tear can itch and swell and it can be painful to empty the bowel. You can treat it with moisturizing creams and mild cortisone ointments. Ask your pharmacist which medicine will help you best.


Pubic lice 

Lice feed on human blood and cause intense itching in affected areas. Pubic lice usually live on pubic hair and are spread through sexual contact. The lice are mainly located in the genital area, but can also be found in the eyebrows and beard. You can treat lice or ‘crabs’ with non-prescription medicines from pharmacies.


Hemorrhoids are swollen veins either inside or outside the rectum. They often occur because of constipation. Symptoms range from itching and burning to small nodules that can bleed and hurt. Hemorrhoids usually disappear by themselves, but sometimes you may need treatment to relieve the symptoms.


Pinworm infection is a common intestinal worm infection that mainly affects children. Typical symptoms include itching of the anal area, especially in the evening and night. You can get rid of pinworms with the help of medications and proper hygiene. 


Candidiasis – Also called vaginal candidiasis, is a vaginal yeast infection that affects most women at some point in their lifetimes. The mucous membrane of genitals becomes red and swollen. Sometimes you may feel burning and itching. There are different types of antifungal medicines, both prescription and non-prescription.


Allergic Itching


Histamine is a compound involved in local immune responses that is activated when we come into contact with something we are allergic to. Histamine triggers an allergic reaction, which includes itching, but also causes swelling of mucous membranes, congestion, runny nose and swollen eyes. The allergic reaction may also manifest as a rash or lead to an asthma attack.


Antihistamines counteract histamine and relieve the allergic reaction. Allergy medicines usually contain antihistamine substances, and sometimes cortisone.


Itching is an irritating feeling and a reflex makes you want to scratch your skin to relieve this sensation. This gives a momentary relief from the itching, but then itching resumes and we continue to scratch, resulting in more irritation and damage to the skin. Damaged skin can also be infected by bacteria.

Prevention and protection

If you have problems with itching you can try to:


  • Use emollient creams
  • Wear cotton gloves when sleeping to avoid scratching your skin
  • Not wash the skin too often as it is dehydrating. That can cause the natural fatty barrier of the skin to disappear and it starts to itch. Soap and water also dry the skin.
  • Wear light clothes as both warmth and tight clothing can make itching worse
  • Avoid the things that can trigger your itching. For example, spices can make itching more intense.

When to consult a doctor

Consult a doctor if you think the itching is caused by an illness, or:


  • if the area that itches seems infected
  • if it continues to itch for a long time.

How APPOTEK can help

APPOTEK can help you with itchy skin. A nurse or a doctor will make an individual assessment based on your symptoms during the online consultation. You may then be prescribed medication or referred for further treatment. Since itchy skin can have diverse causes, a physical examination may be required to make the correct diagnosis.


Valeria Chernikova, Neurologist, M.D.