Why Do We Itch? How to Prevent and Stop Itching

by AngelaJohnson

Did you know your skin has special nerves (called C-Fibres) that only sense itch? Itching can be caused by so many things, you have to be a bit of a detective to find the cause.

"Pruritis" is the medical term for "itch." If something only irritates your skin a little, you get an itch rather than feeling pain.

Our skin is exposed to all kinds of irritants; plants, insects, our clothing, soaps, shampoos, lotions, cosmetics, cleaning products, chemicals in our environment, and even dry air. Itchy skin can also be caused by allergies, rashes, psoriasis, hives and other causes.

Contact Dermatitis - Itchy Skin Disorder

scratching arm


Your skin might itch due to the clothes you are wearing. Some synthetics or wool can cause a reaction, or you might have a rash or itch because of residual pesticides and dyes in the fabrics.

Wash new clothes before you wear them, and if you’re especially sensitive, you might want to use the extra rinse cycle on your washing machine. Cotton material is the least likely to cause a reaction.

You might also consider your skin’s contact with rugs, bedding, and cloth furniture. If your skin becomes irritated or itches, think of anything new you just bought or brought into the home.


Dry skin is a common cause of dermatitis (itching skin).  It might help to bathe less frequently. Try going a day or two without a shower or bath, or just wash your face, underarms, genital areas, hands and feet. When you do bathe, limit yourself to 15 to 20 minutes, and use cool or warm water. If you are addicted to hot showers or use them to soothe sore muscles, use a mild lotion to rehydrate your skin.

Use only mild soaps that clean but don’t remove much of your skin’s natural oils. Deodorant and antibacterial soaps are more drying to your skin. Make sure you thoroughly wash away soap and shampoo so your skin and scalp is totally clean.

Frequently wash your back brush or loofah (you can place them in a dishwasher) and make sure they are not left lying in water. 

Moisturize your skin while it is still damp. Pay special attention to your legs, arms, back and the sides of your body.

According to the American Medical Association, soaps are often overused. “Often, extremely mild cleansing lotions or water alone is sufficient to keep most of the skin adequately clean."

 Photo by xelusionx on flickr


Itching head
Itching head

Products to Relieve Itching

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What Makes Your Nose Itch?


Does your nose itch right after you’ve just eaten?

Allergies often cause itching, so if your nose itches after eating, you might be allergic to a certain food. 

Most allergies are mild and symptoms might include a skin rash, upset stomach or itching.

Food allergies most often happen with a certain type of food like eggs, shellfish or nuts. If you don’t have symptoms every time you eat a certain food, you don’t have a food allergy.

However, if your nose starts itching after eating a meal with several different types of food, you might be eating foods that contain large amounts of histamines! Most people aren’t bothered with foods high in histamines, but if you have symptoms, check out the following foods:

Some Foods with Large Amounts of Histamines

~~ Soy sauce
~~ Mature Cheese
~~ Fish and shell-fish
~~ Alcoholic beverages, especially beer and wine.
~~ Anchovies
~~ Cider and home-made root beer.
~~ Dried fruits such as apricots, dates, prunes, figs and raisins
~~ Processed meats – sausage, hot dogs, salami, cured ham, and smoked fish 
~~ Sour cream, sour milk, buttermilk, yogurt 
~~ Spinach, tomatoes
~~ Foods containing vinegar, such as mayonnaise, ketchup, chili sauce, pickles, relishes, & olives.

And you may have more problems if you combine foods that have high amounts of histamine.

Read more about itching noses on Doctor Stu’s Blog.


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Relief From Itching

scratching neckTry not to scratch your skin. Trim your nails and cover the itchy area with a dressing if you can’t keep from scratching. You can try wearing gloves at night so you don’t scratch when you sleep.

To relieve itchy skin, apply cool, wet compresses to the area.

Natural astringents such as witch hazel, St. John’s Wort or lemon juice will sooth and moisturize the skin.

Gel from aloe vera plants helps to heal the skin.  Try to get aloe fresh from the plant. Just trim off a part of a leaf and apply the gel that’s inside to the affected area. You can also buy aloe vera gel from a store, usually found where sunscreen or skin products are sold.

Add baking soda to warm or cool bath water to help relieve itchy skin. You can also make a paste of baking soda and water and place it on your skin.

Take a bath in evaporated milk; even a sponge bath helps relieve itching and soothes the skin. Adding oatmeal to the milk bath is even better.

Taking vitamins can help skin by working from the inside out. Vitamin E, Beta carotene, vitamin C, and zinc are good vitamins for skin health. This won’t work right away, but is good for the long term.


Some bugs carry diseases, so wash insect bites with soap and water.

Dab a little calamine lotion on insect bites to help with itching and swelling. 

Wet the area with water and then rub an aspirin over it.

Mix table salt and water into a paste and apply it to the bites.

Use a salve or cream that contains antihistamines.

Hold an ice pack or ice wrapped in a washcloth on insect bites for 10-20 minutes to alleviate itching.

If there’s no ice available, run cold water over your skin for a few minutes or hold a cold bottle of water against the bites.

Oral antihistamines can help, but many cause sleepiness so don't take them when working or driving.


Photo by Amarand Agasi on flickr.

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Updated: 11/24/2019, AngelaJohnson
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RuthCox on 09/21/2014

That is just awful, Angela. No doubt it was the water!

AngelaJohnson on 09/21/2014

RuthCox - Our family moved from Missouri to Illinois when I was young, and my mother's hands broke out when she had to keep them in water, such as washing dishes. Many years later she moved to Tennessee and her hands never broke out again. There must have been something in the water in that Illinois town.

RuthCox on 09/20/2014

I might need that water purification system. Ever since I moved to this new place a little over a year ago, my skin is so dry and itchy it is unbelievable. It is well water, unpurified or softened water, and it is just plain nasty! I don't drink it nor do I cook with it.

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