Don’t Tell Me Not To Scratch!

We all know what it is like to itch but do you really understand why you itch.  The process of itching is a very complicated one.

Definition: Itching is a subjective sensation controlled and affected by a complex of psychological, neural and biochemical factors.

Any Wiser?  No?  I did warn you that itching is very complicated!

What we do know is that individual reactions to itching stimuli vary and itching may be continuous or come in bursts.  Because each individual will interpret an itch differently it is difficult to quantify.

The itch sensation is transmitted through nerves and biochemical reactions.  The sensation will travel along the same nerve fibres that transmit touch and the hot and cold sensation.  In the brain a sensory impulse is transmitted to a motor impulse that causes the physical act of scratching.

More simply the brain receives an impulse saying the skin has been irritated and feels itchy.  So the brain sends an impulse out in reply saying scratch the itch.

Eczema is always itchy

Many things cause or contribute to itching, not the least are skin diseases.  In fact all of the dermatitis group produce an itch.

Other stimuli include:

  • climatic changes
  • inefficient sweating
  • topical skin irritants
  • clothing
  • medications
  • internal diseases
  • foods: tea, coffee, chocolate
  • alcohol, tobacco
  • psychological variations
  • emotional reactions, and the list goes on

How do we prevent itching?

So what can we do to prevent itching?  It’s easy.  Avoid all causes and contributing factors and don’t develop skin conditions.

If only it were that easy.  The fact is we are all going to develop different itches at different times and relieving the itch will depend primarily on the cause of the itch.

As a general rule with any itch, try to avoid scratching. Scratching damages the skin and increases the itch sensation.  Try not to overheat the skin, or let it become excessively dry, and if possible avoid any irritants that you know will irritate your skin.

Controlling the eczema itch

Eczema and dry skin go hand in hand so it is very important to keep the skin well moisturised when you have eczema.  Moist skin is less likely to break out in eczema and it is also less itchy.  Remember that most treating creams are not moisturisers so a separate moisturiser needs to be used.

A barrier cream will help to protect skin exposed to water or saliva, thus helping to prevent further damage to the skin whilst locking the moisture into the skin.

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