Welcome to the beat the itch section!
This section will look at:
- Why does eczema make me itch?
- What does scratching do to my skin?
- How can I beat the itch?
- Practical tips that will help you not scratch.
Itching and scratching
Why does eczema make me itch?
When skin comes into contact with things that it thinks are harmful, it releases natural chemicals, like histamine. These chemicals make skin feel itchy.
In people without eczema, these chemicals go away after a while and the itching stops. In people with eczema, these chemicals keep being released and you carry on feeling itchy.
What does scratching do to my skin?
Itching is made even worse by scratching or rubbing. This is because scratching makes your skin think it’s under attack, which makes it release more chemicals. This makes you feel even more itchy, which makes you want to scratch more! This is called the itch-scratch cycle.
Scratching can also damage your skin. This can make it bleed or let bugs in so it gets infected. Damaged skin also lets things that cause eczema flare-ups to pass through easily, such as soap or washing powder.
Damaged skin can itch while it is healing. This can add to the itch-scratch cycle.
How can I beat the itch?
Unfortunately, you are likely to still get itchy from time to time, no matter how well you look after your eczema. But there are things you can do to make your skin feel less itchy and stop yourself from scratching. This section will help you do this.
How do I get control of my eczema?
You will need to use flare-control cream if you are having a flare-up. You can find out more in the ‘getting control of your eczema using flare control creams’ section.
Moisturising creams will stop your skin getting dry and dry skin leads to itchy skin. The right moisturising cream can feel soothing. Also, gently stroking the skin will relieve some of the itch. Try keeping the cream in the fridge to see if this helps.
How do I make myself comfortable?
- Stay cool – Use plain cotton sheets and a thin duvet at night. Loose fitting clothes will help keep you cool. Some people find it helpful to keep the room cool at night. For example, putting the central heating low or having a fan in the bedroom.
- Keep busy – Distracting yourself by playing a computer game or going out somewhere can help you forget about the itch.
- Try a cool bath or shower – Getting too hot makes itching worse. A cool bath or shower might do wonders to relieve the itch. Gently pat yourself dry gently then use moisturising cream after your bath or shower.
- Try pressing a cold cloth, cooling gel pack, or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel on the area of skin that’s itchy.
How can I stop scratching?
Here are some tips that may help you stop scratching:
- Try putting on cotton gloves or mittens when you are feeling itchy or at bed time.
- Keep your nails short, making sure there are no sharp edges, to limit the damage to your skin when you do scratch.
- It may be helpful to see if you scratch at certain times of day, like while watching TV, and find something else to do. You may want to try writing down the times of day you scratched and what you were doing when you scratched.
- Try making a fist for 30 seconds instead of scratching.
- Some people find it helpful to hold the itchy area or press down on it rather than scratch.
- Some people with eczema also find it helpful to ‘tap’ the itchy area with fingertips, or ‘waft’ cool air onto the skin with a fan or paper.
How can this website help me stop scratching?
- You may find it helpful to go to the ‘emotions and eczema’ section to find out about some relaxation techniques you can use to distract yourself and overcome the urge to scratch. You can find this section in the ' living well with eczema ' menu above.
- You are more likely to itch when you are not sleeping well. You may find it helpful to go to the ‘ sleep and eczema ’ section to get advice on how to get a good night’s sleep.
- You can find out more about antihistamines and whether they are helpful for itchy eczema in the ‘ other treatments ’ section.