Topical ointments, creams and medications can help relieve skin itching, but the right solution for your skin depends on the cause of the itchiness. Dry skin, infections and allergic reactions may all produce itching and rashes, and each requires a different type of treatment. Consult your doctor any time you notice any changes in your skin.
Insect bites from mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies and some spiders may cause itching and mild swelling of the skin, with immediate or delayed reactions, depending on the insect. Some, like mosquitoes and ticks, may carry the West Nile virus or Lyme disease. You can apply a cold pack or ice to an itchy insect bite to help relieve the initial reaction. Hydrocortisone cream and oral antihistamines with the ingredient diphenhydramine can also help control ongoing itching.
Swimmer's itch is an itchy rash caused by parasites that normally live off waterfowl and freshwater snails. These parasites may burrow into your skin if you swim in warm freshwater lakes and ponds. The parasites usually die within 48 hours because humans are not their preferred suitable hosts, but they cause itchy discomfort in the meantime. The itchy rash may begin within two hours or be delayed up to two days after swimming. You may also experience itching without a rash. You can control itching with over-the-counter antihistamines or anti-itch creams that contain calamine lotion.
Jock itch is a fungal infection caused by dermatophytes fungi. Jock itch occurs on your genitals, inner thighs and buttocks, producing an itchy, red rash that may form in a ring shape. Dermatophytes are in balance in normal skin when it is kept clean and dry, but develop into the rash with moistness and bacteria. You can treat itchy jock itch with over-the-counter antifungal creams and ointments such as miconazole and clotrimazole.
Heat rash is characterized by multiple small, red bumps caused by blockages in your sweat glands. It may cause discomfort, itching, stinging or a prickly type of pain. You may develop heat rash when you are new to a hot or humid environment, overdressed or sweating excessively. The itchy bumps may also affect covered areas of your body that experience friction and in body folds, such as the area behind your knees. Heat rash usually resolves on its own once you move into a cooler environment. The Skin Sight website recommends drinking abundant fluids to help cool down your body and to apply a cool compress to reduce itchy discomfort.
Poison Ivy and Poison Oak
You may experience red, swollen skin, blisters and severe itching if your skin comes into contact with urushiol, the oils in poison ivy and poison oak. The Mayo Clinic recommends avoiding contact with any plants that grow leaves in groups of three as a precaution. You may be able to prevent a poison ivy or oak reaction by using an over-the-counter soap that contains bentoquatam. Treat your skin by immediately washing with a bentoquatam soap and lukewarm to cool water. Take a lukewarm shower and use calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to relieve discomfort. Severe reactions may require a doctor who can prescribe oral corticosteroids to reduce itching and swelling around your face, eyes or genitals.