Itchy skin is not usually a sign of anything serious. You can often treat it yourself and it will usually go away after a few weeks.
Itchy skin is also common during pregnancy or after the menopause. This is caused by hormonal changes and usually gets better over time.
In rare cases, itchy skin can be a sign of a more serious condition, such as thyroid, liver or kidney problems.
Treating itchy skin yourself
Sometimes itching is caused by dry, cracked or irritated skin. There are things you can do to ease the itching, stop it returning and avoid skin damage from scratching.
pat or tap your skin instead of scratching it
hold something cool on your skin, like a damp towel
have cool or warm baths or showers
use an unperfumed moisturiser or emollient regularly
keep your nails clean, short and smooth
wear loose cotton clothing
use a laundry liquid or powder that's for sensitive skin
do not wear tight clothes, or clothes made from wool or synthetic fabrics
do not spend a long time in the bath or shower
do not use perfumed soaps, deodorants or moisturisers
A pharmacist can help with itchy skin
A pharmacist can recommend the best products to help with itchy skin. For example, you can use creams, lotions or a medicine called antihistamine.
Tell them where your skin is itchy and if you have any other symptoms.
A pharmacist might also be able to tell you:
- what you can do to treat it yourself
- if you need to see a GP
Non-urgent advice: Contact your GP if itchy skin:
- does not get better with self-care or it keeps coming back
- is caused by a new rash, lump or swelling that you're worried about
- is all over your body - this could be a sign of something more serious
Treatment from a GP
A GP might prescribe creams, lotions or tablets, depending on what's causing the itching.
They will look at your skin and ask about your symptoms.
To help find the cause of your itchy skin your GP might:
- arrange a blood test
- wipe a cotton bud over the area of itchy skin (a swap)
- gently scrape off some skin cells, so they can be tested
A GP may also refer you to see a doctor who specialises in skin problems (dermatologist).
Causes of itchy skin
Itchy skin has many possible causes. If you have other symptoms (such as a rash or swelling) this might help to find the cause.
But do not try to diagnose yourself. Talk to your GP if you're worried.
- fungal skin infections, such as thrush, ringworm or athlete's foot
- hives or prickly heat
- insects living on the skin such as scabies, head lice and pubic lice
Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE