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Itchy skin

Itchy skin is not usually a sign of anything serious. You can often treat it yourself and it will usually go away after a few weeks.

How to treat itchy skin yourself

Sometimes itching is caused by dry, cracked or irritated skin. There are simple things you can do to help ease the itching.

These things may also help stop itchy skin returning and avoid skin damage from scratching.


  • pat or tap your skin instead of scratching it

  • hold something cool on your skin, like a damp towel

  • have cool or lukewarm baths or showers

  • use an unperfumed moisturiser or emollient regularly

  • keep your nails clean, short and smooth

  • wear loose cotton or silk clothing

  • use a laundry liquid or powder that's for sensitive skin


  • do not wear tight clothes, or clothes made from wool or synthetic fabrics

  • do not spend a long time in the bath or shower

  • do not use perfumed soaps, deodorants or moisturisers

A pharmacist can help with itchy skin

A pharmacist can tell you what the best products are for itchy skin. For example, medicines called antihistamines may help with some causes of itching.

They can also recommend lotions and creams, such as menthol creams that help by cooling the skin.

Tell the pharmacist where your skin is itchy and if you have any other symptoms.

A pharmacist might also be able to tell you:

  • what you can do to treat it yourself
  • if you need to see a GP

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if itchy skin:

  • is affecting your daily life
  • does not get better with self care or keeps coming back
  • is caused by a new rash, lump or swelling that you're worried about
  • is all over your body
  • is severe
  • happens during pregnancy

Treatment from a GP

A GP might prescribe creams, lotions or tablets, depending on what's causing the itching.

They will look at your skin and ask about your symptoms.

They might arrange a blood test, which may help find the cause of your itchy skin.

The GP may also refer you to see a doctor who specialises in skin problems (dermatologist).

Causes of itchy skin

Itchy skin has many possible causes. If you have other symptoms (such as a rash or swelling) this might help to find the cause.

But do not try to diagnose yourself. See a GP if you're worried.

Possible causes of itchy skin
Possible causes Common skin conditions

Skin reactions to heat or something you're allergic to

Allergies, hives, heat rash (prickly heat)

Long-term skin conditions

Dandruff, eczema, psoriasis

Fungal skin infections

Thrush, ringworm, athlete's foot

Parasites or insects living on the skin

Scabies, head lice, pubic lice

Itchy skin is common during pregnancy.

It’s usually nothing to worry about but it’s important to check with a GP or midwife because it can sometimes be caused by a liver condition called intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (ICP).

Itchy skin is also common after the menopause. It usually gets better over time.

Less commonly, itchy skin can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as thyroid, liver or kidney problems.

Page last reviewed: 19 July 2023
Next review due: 19 July 2026