Itchy skin – Common causes and remedies

Being the outermost layer of the body, the skin protects the body against injury and harmful substances. It also prevents loss of moisture, controls body temperature, and stores blood. Health conditions pertaining to the skin can affect such functions and cause significant discomfort. Itchy skin is a prevalent skin problem, with 22% of individuals experiencing chronic itching at some point in their lives. Here are some causes and remedies for itchy skin:

Causes of itchy skin
Food allergies
Itchy skin and rashes may be caused by food allergies such as shellfish, soy, dairy, wheat, and peanuts. Eliminating specific foods or food groups one by one can help identify what food may be the allergen.

Exposure to insects and pollen
Some individuals may develop skin allergies and itching from exposure to pollen or certain insects, such as wasps, fleas, bed bugs, pinworms, and ants.

Sometimes, skin itching may be caused as a reaction to parasites living in oceans, lakes, and other water bodies. This condition is referred to as swimmer’s itch.

As one ages, the skin tends to lose moisture and become drier, which can lead to discomforting itching. More than 50% of older adults experience chronic itchy skin.

Remedies for itchy skin
Moisturize regularly
It is important to hydrate the skin by applying a good-quality moisturizer and body lotion, preferably in the mornings, after a bath, and before going to bed.

Have an oatmeal bath
Oatmeal acts as a natural moisturizer and exfoliator for the skin. Hence, having oatmeal baths at least twice a week is an effective remedy for skin itching.

Apply aloe vera gel
Aloe vera gel has anti-inflammatory properties, which can cool the skin and help reduce itching. It is advisable to apply a thin layer of this gel twice or thrice a day for best results.

Use an ice pack
Ice can reduce skin inflammation and provide instant relief from skin itching. Although the application of an ice pack is a short-term solution, repeated use of an ice pack can soothe the skin considerably and help control itching.

Chronic itchy skin may also result from a condition known as Prurigo nodularis. It is characterized by hard bumps, also known as nodules. These nodules lead to persistent, severe itching and a burning or stinging sensation around the arms, legs, abdomen, and back. The itching is so intense that it often interferes with sleep and psychological well-being. If one begins to experience these symptoms, it may be advisable to visit a healthcare provider and seek treatment immediately.

Another skin condition that could lead to itching and discomfort is psoriasis. The most common type here is plaque psoriasis, characterized by the formation of raised patches (or plaques) of dry, inflamed skin covered by scales. Upon noticing these signs, one should consult a doctor and discuss treatment options that help reduce inflammation and itching associated with this autoimmune condition.