You made it through summer and now you’ve got itchy skin. Congratulations – or sorry, depending on your point of view, because you survived mosquito bites and poison oak. But now the weather’s turning. You’re inside more, with the heaters on, and exposed to any number of household irritants that can make your life miserable.
The good news is there are plenty of remedies for itchy skin. You can often treat it at home – first by finding the cause of your misery. Fix that problem and your skin should thank you.
Still, you might want to speak with your doctor about itchy skin. A new study links psoriasis to unhealthy blood vessels and arteries. That’s yet another reason to keep your doctor in the loop if your skin gets worse after several days of itching.
Causes of Itchy Skin
Your skin itches for any number of reasons. In summer it may be mosquitos or peeling sunburns. In winter it could be dry skin or any one of the many household irritants in your home.
Your job, as the unfortunate soul cursed with itchy skin, is to review what you’ve been in contact with and try to whittle down the culprits. Then avoid that irritant, or switch to another brand, and see if it makes a difference.
While anyone can get itchy skin, some folks are more at risk of it than others. Those at risk of itchy skin include:
People with allergies – especially hayfever, asthma and eczema
People with diabetes
People with HIV, AIDS and some types of cancer
Is it Dangerous?
By itself, itchy skin is usually not dangerous. But it’s important to speak with a doctor if it persists because studies suggest it may be a harbinger of more urgent health issues. Some evidence links a common form of skin inflammation, psoriasis, to heart disease – the leading cause of death on the planet, because it may cause blood vessels to narrow.
The cascading events that follow from even one psoriasis patch may increase that risk, according to a study published in October, which found folks with moderate to severe psoriasis had a 41% increase in blood vessel inflammation compared to people without the condition.
That link remained, even after researchers controlled for other factors known to increase risk of heart disease, like blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, weight and smoking.
The take away message here is that ongoing itchy skin warrants attention from your doctor. Go here to learn more about psoriasis, and how to spot symptoms of this troublesome ailment.
Remedies for Itchy Skin
Short-term itchy skin can likely be treated at home. You’ll want to look for what’s responsible – and it may be something you use often without a second thought. You’ll need to go through the potential offenders, like a household cleaner, air freshener – anything you’re in contact with regularly – to look for the problem.
Remember that many household products can strip the skin of moisture and its natural oils. That can lead to dry skin and eczema in some people. You can fight itchy skin from household products with:
The best way to prevent itchy skin from irritants in your home is to not touch them in the first place. One way to do that is to wear non-latex gloves when you wash dishes or touch household cleaners – both prolific offenders in the itchy skin department.
Assuming you don’t have a latex allergy, you could even double up for more protection. Wear rubber gloves over a soft, cotton pair the next time you touch a bucket or sponge and you’re in even better shape to guard against those harsh irritants that lead to itchy skin.
A Post-Swim Shower
Ah, the dry skin we get after a dip in the pool. The culprit here tends to be chlorine, which you’ll want to shower off the moment you step out of the water. Wash your skin with a mild soap, and moisturize with a product that has glycerin listed as its first ingredient. The latter helps skin keep moisture and helps keep dry skin at bay.
Fish and Flaxseed Oil
Fish is the ocean’s gift to good health. That may extend to itchy skin prevention – fish like salmon are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which hydrate your largest organ and appear to protect against toxins that age the skin. Flaxseed oil may have similar benefits, though you may want to run that past your doctor first.
In some people, petroleum jelly may help prevent itchy skin. That’s because pure petroleum jelly has few ingredients, so it’s gentler on folks with sensitive skin – and who tend to make dry skin worse when they apply a chemical-heavy moisturizer to skin that’s already overloaded with household irritants.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends pure petroleum jelly to soothe dry skin and applied from head to toe. You may find argan oil is helpful as well.
The benefits of oats are numerous, from lower blood pressure to higher levels of testosterone. Yet you get even more benefits from oatmeal when you apply it topically – an oatmeal bath exposes you to inflammation-fighting chemicals called avenathramides. Sprinkle oatmeal in a running bath to do that. Let it soak for 15 minutes and let the soothing begin.
Dust mites at home are a common reason why folks get itchy skin. A study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found these microscopic little villains led inflammation in many people, which is why you’ll want to vacuum often. Clean your carpets too, and wash your bedding in water at 130F or higher at least once a week.
A Hydrating Hand Sanitizer
Been to a medical office lately? You’ll see plenty of hand sanitizer dispensers – and even some in homes now – to keep flu and other nasty bugs at arm’s length. While that’s definitely a good thing, these are alcohol-based sanitizers that can lead to itchy skin because they rob it of moisture. Use a hydrating sanitizer recommend by dermatologists for less of a hit to your skin’s natural oils and fight itchy skin right where it counts.