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Itching Skin (Pruritus)

Itching is a feeling of the skin which induces scratching. By scratching, we replace the sensation of itch with the sensation of pain. It is an important symptom of many diseases of the skin and also of internal disorders. Because it induces scratching which can cause damage to the skin, it is important to give relief, but without damaging the irritable skin. The itching may be due to contact with wool, soaps, strong detergents, cosmetics, nettles or plants.

Insect bites, drug reactions, or skin disorders such as dermatitis, eczema, dry skin, tinea, prickly heat, hives, urticaria, winter itch or herpes zoster may also be a cause. Mental anxiety or stress may also be present. Internal disorders are occasionally present, such as blood, kidney, liver and thyroid disorders, diabetes, pregnancy or iron deficiency and these conditions should all be under medical supervision.

Both the cause and the symptom of itching need to be treated. For specific skin conditions see the details in each section.

Advice for the Patient

1. As with all skin conditions that involve pruritus, it is important to advise the patient not to scratch. Scratching can damage the skin
and introduce secondary infection to the area leading to a more complicated condition to treat.

2. The patient should be advised to avoid using soap as normal alkaline soaps will remove the skin’s natural acid protection against infection.

3. Remove any obvious cause if possible and avoid hot showers, electric blankets, overly warm clothing and wool.

4. Avoid hot drinks and spicy foods as these induce sweating and may worsen the itching.

Products to Help (Anti-pruritics, Soap Alternatives)

An anti-itch, anti-inflammatory and cleansing solution with a pH of 6.5, Pinetarsol Solution relieves itching and reduces inflammation. Bathing also helps to keep the skin and fingernails clean to reduce the risk of secondary infection caused by scratching. Add 15 - 30 mL to a warm to tepid bath (5 mL to a baby’s bath). Bathe for 5 - 10 minutes, once daily or more often in severe cases.

Pinetarsol Gel is a soap alternative which can be used to cleanse the skin when ordinary soaps are contraindicated. Pinetarsol Gel contains pine tar to relieve itching and reduce inflammation.