Itching – what are the best treatments for itching?


The best treatment for itching depends on the cause. You may be able to relieve itching and reduce the risk of skin damage caused by scratching with some simple self-help measures.

If necessary, your GP or pharmacist can offer treatments that may help relieve an itch.

General tips

keep your nails clean, short and smooth

try patting or tapping the itchy area, rather than scratching it

wear cotton gloves at night to prevent damage from scratching in your sleep

hold a cold compress, such as damp flannel, over the affected area to cool it down

avoid spicy foods, alcohol and caffeine, as these can affect the blood flow in your skin and make itching worse


use cool or lukewarm water, rather than hot water

keep baths to less than 20 minutes

try to reduce how often you have a bath or shower if possible

avoid using perfumed soap, shower gel or deodorants; unperfumed substitutes are often available from pharmacists

use unperfumed moisturising lotions and emollients after bathing or showering to help prevent your skin becoming too dry

dab or pat your skin dry, rather than rubbing it

Clothing and fabrics

avoid clothes that irritate your skin, such as wool and some man-made fabrics

wear cotton or silk whenever possible

avoid tight-fitting clothes

use mild laundry detergent that is less likely to irritate your skin

use cool, light, loose bedclothes


Some lotions, creams and etc available over the counter from pharmacies or on a prescription from your GP can help reduce itchiness.

Common treatments recommended include:

an oily moisturiser or emollient if your skin is dry or flaky

creams containing menthol to cool your skin or anti-itch ingredients such as crotamiton

mild steroid cream (usually for only a few days) for small inflamed areas – hydrocortisone cream is available from pharmacies over the counter, or your GP can prescribe a steroid cream for you

AH  to help control allergic reactions – check with your pharmacist or GP before using these as they are not suitable for everyone

Some AH tablets can make you feel drowsy. This may be helpful if taken at night to help you sleep, but it’s important not to drive, use power tools or operate heavy machinery after taking them.

If you have itching in hairy areas like your scalp, lotions are available specifically for these areas so you don’t have to use sticky creams.