Home Health: The Best Ingredients In Anti-Itch Creams And Lotions

Selecting an anti-itch remedy can be mind-boggling. Sort your way through the medicine aisle with this summary of the most effective ingredients.

Itching is miserable.Whether from poison ivy, insect bites, or psoriasis, nobody likes to itch.Doctors have determined that scratching an itch can damage the skin, making it itch even more.This sets an itch-scratch cycle into motion, which causes the itchy place to spread and the healing to take longer.If scratching breaks the skin, bacterial infection can occur.For these reasons, it is very important to soothe the itch.

Fortunately, whether you prefer natural or standard medications, there are products on the market that can help control this malady.When choosing an anti-itch cream or lotion, be sure to read the ingredient label.

Oatmeal is found in many of the natural anti-itch preparations.It is "colloidal," which means that tiny particles of oatmeal disperse throughout the lotion in such a way that they do not settle to the bottom or filter out easily.These particles provide for light exfoliation.In other words, they gently buff away dead skin cells.The grain also has a soothing anti-itch quality to it, but it tends to be drying, and is more appropriate for oily skin.

Aloe Vera, the common houseplant whose sap is used to counteract burns in the kitchen, is another soothing natural ingredient.A Swedish study found aloe-containing creams to help relieve psoriasis in 83% of the sufferers tested.

Strong smelling camphor and phenol are often used together in preparations for insect bites.They work well, but can be somewhat harsh for delicate skin.Camphor is a resin originally produced from the camphor tree, while phenol is present in coal tar, another ingredient found in old-fashioned itch remedies.Keep these medications out of the reach of children because they are poisonous.

Menthol, a cool, natural oil derived from mint, is also sometimes found in these traditional salves.

Tea tree oil kills germs and aids healing, as well as numbing an itch.Like camphor, phenol, and menthol, it has a strong smell.It, too, can be a little harsh when used by itself, but is a good ingredient to look for in a natural medication for itching.

Among the anti-itch medications developed in the laboratory, benzocaine is very good.It is a topical anesthetic that stops the nerve impulses from relaying to the brain that there is an itch.Two other topical anesthetics are lidocaine and pramoxine.Pramoxine is particularly good for stopping the itch of hemorrhoids.The topical anesthetics can be applied as needed until the itch is relieved.

Hydrocortisone is another good itch stopper.It is available over the counter in low dosage creams.You will need a prescription for a more concentrated medication.While either strength can be used to relieve an itch, the prescription medication is reported to stop the itch more quickly than the OTC creams.Hydrocortisone should not be used on large rashes, but only on small areas.It is most effective on rashes that respond to cortisone, like eczema and seborrhea.It is less effective on insect bites.

Dimethicone and other ingredients with names ending in "-cone" are naturally occurring inorganic oils derived from sand.These ingredients improve the spreading texture of the product, and are often used in make-up and hair treatments.They are soothing and moisturizing.

Salicylic acid helps to loosen dry skin and allow it to absorb the medication better.

Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine that is used as a topical itch treatment.It can also be taken orally if the itching is extremely annoying and is disrupting the patient's sleep.Diphenhydramine is the main ingredient in many OTC medications for sleeplessness and allergies, and can be used for children's itches.It runs a slight risk of producing hyperactivity as a side effect.

Calamine lotion is a traditional zinc-containing medicine that helps relieve itching, especially when the itch is spread over a large portion of the body.It tends to be runny and unattractive to use, but it is inexpensive.Sometimes it can be found to contain diphenhydramine, which improves both its consistency and effectiveness.Be careful not to use both topical and oral diphenhydramine at the same time because of the risk of overdose.Be especially careful of this in the event of chicken pox, since it has been found to cause seizures.

The simplest home treatment for itching is cool water in the form of a bath, a wet washcloth, or an ice pack.It is tempting to use hot water in the bath because it feels great on an itch, but it tends to increase the itchiness later.

Treatment for itching depends on the cause of the itch.Dry skin can be helped with a simple moisturizer and the use of a humidifier in the home.Allergic rashes, on the other hand, may need care from a dermatologist and prescription medication.Sometimes stress can exacerbate itching, and dealing with the stressors in one's life can help.For average cases of insect bites and poison ivy, though, the above ingredients are safe and effective.

As a final reminder, always read the safety information on the label, and consult a physician when the patient is less than 2 years old.

© High Speed Ventures 2011