Tips to cope with itching

It is tempting to scratch an itch, but try to avoid this. There are different ways to soothe and manage itching.  

Washing and drying

  • Limit the number of baths you take, use lukewarm water.
  • Avoid soaking in the bath for long periods as warm water may remove the skin’s natural oils.
  • Instead of soap, use a moisturising liquid (emollient), such as aqueous cream, Oilatum or Diprobase, prescribed by your doctor or nurse.
  • Pat your skin dry with a towel rather than rubbing.
  • Dry the skin thoroughly after bathing. This reduces the chance of chaffing and fungal infection.

Creams, lotions and moisturisers

  • Avoid perfumed, scented and lanolin based lotions and moisturisers as these can cause allergies in the skin and more itching.
  • Use odourless and colourless moisturiser, such as epaderm and hydromol, which you can get from the chemist. Apply regularly.
  • Moisturise your skin straight after you bath. Apply the moisturiser in the same direction as your hair grows. Do not rub them into the skin as this can make itching worse.
  • Moisturiser cooled in a refrigerator can soothe the skin.

What to wear

  • Wear cotton and linen, rather than wool or man-made materials, which can irritate the skin.
  • Keep your bedclothes light.
  • Wear cotton gloves at night to avoid scratching in your sleep.

Other tips

  • Use an electric razor rather than wet shaving.
  • Drink plenty, preferably water (2 to 3 litres a day).
  • Keep your nails short to reduce the risk of scratching your skin.
  • Avoid highly perfumed washing products for washing and bedding.
  • Try to keep an even, cool temperature in your room, as getting hot can make itching worse.
  • Try to distract yourself by watching a film or reading a book.
  • If your hot and itchy during the day, use a fan to cool you down.
  • Practise mindfulness. It can help to break the cycle of itch and scratching.

What to do instead of scratching

  • gently pinch an area of skin close to the itch
  • rub, tap or press the area gently
  • put a cool pack on the skin
  • gently apply more moisturiser

When to contact your doctor or nurse

Contact your doctor or nurse if you:

  • notice the itching gets worse
  • see the itchy area getting more red and sore
  • see any pus coming from the skin or it smells
  • are unable to sleep because of the itching
  • Pruritus-itching

    British Association of Dermatologists

    Accessed May 2023

  • Electronic Medicines Compendium (EMC)

    Accessed May 2023

  • Skin exposure to scented products used in daily life and fragrance contact allergy in the European general population - The EDEN Fragrance Study

    C van Amerongen and others

    Contact Dermatitis, 2021 June. Volume 84, Issue 6, Pages: 385 to 394

  • How can mindfulness help patients with skin conditions?

    J Hutton

    Dermatological Nursing, 2016. Volume 15, Issue 3, Pages: 32 to 35

  • The information on this page is based on literature searches and specialist checking. We used many references and there are too many to list here. If you need additional references for this information please contact with details of the particular risk or cause you are interested in.

Last reviewed: 
12 May 2023
Next review due: 
12 May 2026

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