Treating itching 

The type of treatment you receive for itching will depend on the cause.

If you are referred for further investigations, there are things you can do to give yourself some relief.

Using a cold compress such as damp flannel, or applying calamine lotion to the affected area may help relieve your itching.


When bathing or showering you should:

  • use cool or lukewarm water (not hot)
  • avoid using perfumed soap, shower gel or deodorants; unperfumed lotions or aqueous cream are available from your pharmacist
  • use unperfumed moisturising lotions and emollients after bathing or showering to help prevent your skin becoming too dry

Clothing and fabric

Regarding clothing and bed linen, you should:

  • avoid wearing clothes that irritate your skin, such as wool and some man-made fabrics
  • wear cotton whenever possible
  • avoid tight-fitting clothes
  • use mild laundry detergent that will not irritate your skin
  • use cool, light, loose bedclothes


With regard to medication, you can use:

  • an oily moisturiser or emollient if your skin is dry or flaky
  • mild steroid cream (for no longer than seven days) for localised, inflamed, itchy areas – hydrocortisone cream is available from pharmacies over the counter, or your GP can prescribe a steroid cream for you
  • antihistamine tablets to help control allergic reactions and help break the itch-scratch cycle – consult your GP before using these because they are not suitable for all cases of itching

Antihistamine tablets may also make you feel drowsy, therefore it's important you do not drive, use power tools or heavy machinery while taking them.

Some antidepressants such as paroxetine or sertraline can help relieve itching (if your GP prescribes these, it does not mean you are depressed).

If you have itching in hairy areas, such as your scalp, lotions can be prescribed specifically for these areas, rather than using sticky creams.

Vulval itching

If you have itching around the outside of your vagina, your GP will treat the underlying cause. This could be:

Your GP may prescribe emollients or antihistamines to help relieve the itching.

Page last reviewed: 08/11/2012

Next review due: 08/11/2014