Try these tips to help relieve itching from a rash.
- Keep the itchy area cool and moist.
Put cloths soaked in ice water on the rash a few times a day. Too much wetting and drying will dry the skin, which can increase itching.
- Keep cool, and stay out of the sun.
Heat makes itching worse.
- Add a handful of oatmeal (ground to a powder) to your bath.
Or you can try an oatmeal bath product, such as Aveeno.
- Avoid scratching as much as you can.
Scratching leads to more scratching. Cut nails short or wear cotton gloves at night to prevent scratching.
- Wear cotton clothing.
Don't wear wool and synthetic fabrics next to your skin.
- Use gentle soaps on your skin.
Examples are Basis, Cetaphil, Dove, and Oil of Olay. Use as little soap as you can. Don't use deodorant soaps.
- Wash your clothes with a mild soap, rather than a detergent.
Try using ones like CheerFree or Ecover. Rinse twice to remove all traces of the soap. Don't use strong detergents.
- Don't let the skin get too dry.
Dry skin may make itching worse.
- Try nonprescription medicines for itching.
Carefully read and follow all label directions on the medicine bottle or box.
- Try calamine lotion for a rash caused by contact dermatitis, such as poison ivy or poison oak rashes.
- For severe itching from contact dermatitis, apply hydrocortisone cream 4 times a day until the itch is gone. But don't use this cream on a fungal rash, because it can make the rash worse.
- If itching affects your sleep, ask your doctor if you can take an antihistamine that might reduce itching and make you sleepy, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- Take breaks.
Take several breaks during the day to do a relaxation exercise if stress appears to cause your itching or make it worse. In particular, do it before you go to bed. Sit or lie down, and try to clear your mind. Manage your stress by relaxing every muscle in your body, starting with your toes and going up to your head. Doing this may help your symptoms.
To keep itching from getting worse
You may be able to prevent itching from getting worse.
- Stay out of the sun and in a cool place.
Heat increases itching.
- Use a mild skin cleanser rather than soap. Examples include Aveeno, Dove, and Neutrogena.
If you are taking a bath, use a skin cleanser at the very end. Then rinse off with fresh water. Gently pat your skin dry with a towel.
- Put a cool compress on the skin to relieve itching.
- Avoid dry skin, which will worsen itching.
Apply a moisturizer or calamine lotion to the skin while it is damp.
- Try washing your clothes with a mild detergent such as Cheer Free and Gentle or Ecover.
Rinse twice to remove all traces of the cleaning product. Avoid strong detergents when you have a rash.
- Take several breaks during the day to do a relaxation exercise.
- If stress appears to cause your itching or make it worse, a stress break can help—particularly before going to bed. Sit or lie down, and try to clear your mind of distracting thoughts.
- Concentrate on relaxing every muscle in your body, starting with your toes and going up to your head.
- Don't scratch.
Scratching leads to more itching and may cause a skin infection to develop. Cut nails short or wear cotton gloves at night to prevent scratching. Put mittens or cotton socks on the hands of babies and young children to prevent scratching.
Over-the-counter medicines for itching
If home treatment doesn't relieve the itching, you may want to try taking an over-the-counter medicine.
- Try a nonprescription 1% hydrocortisone cream for small itchy areas.
- Use only a tiny amount of cream on the face or genitals.
- If itching is severe, your doctor may prescribe a stronger cream.
Don't use the cream on children younger than age 2 unless your doctor tells you to. Don't use it in the rectal or vaginal area in children younger than age 12 unless your doctor tells you to.
- Calamine lotion may help dry out itchy, oozing blisters.
- Oral antihistamines may relieve the itching. Nondrowsy oral antihistamines include fexofenadine (Allegra) and loratadine (Claritin). Antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can make you feel sleepy and cause other side effects. They may not be safe for young children or for people who have certain health problems.
- Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
- Avoid applying antihistamine, such as Benadryl cream, spray, or gel, or Caladryl lotion, to the skin. These products may further irritate your skin. Also, it is more difficult to control the dosage of medicine that is absorbed through the skin.
If the itching is severe and it interferes with sleep or other activities for more than 2 days, call your doctor to discuss your symptoms.
Current as of: March 22, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Ellen K. Roh MD - Dermatology