Antipruritics, also known as anti-itch drugs, are medications that inhibit the itching (Latin: pruritus) that is often associated with sunburns, allergic reactions, eczema, psoriasis, chickenpox, fungal infections, insect bites and stings like those from mosquitoes, fleas, and mites, and contact dermatitis and urticaria caused by plants such as poison ivy (urushiol-induced contact dermatitis) or stinging nettle.
Topical antipruritics in the form of creams and sprays are often available over-the-counter. Oral anti-itch drugs also exist and are usually prescription drugs. The active ingredients usually belong to the following classes:
- Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
- Corticosteroids such as hydrocortisone topical cream, see topical steroid
- Local anesthetics such as benzocaine topical cream (Lanacane)
- Counterirritants, such as mint oil, menthol, or camphor1
- Burow's solution (aluminium acetate)
- Olive oil
- Jewelweed, has been shown to be devoid of any anti-itch activity in several controlled studies 2345
- SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) comprise a class of medicines commonly used for depression, and are also said to be effective in controlling pruritus in a small number of refractory cases.6 Mirtazapine, a different type of antidepressant, also has antipruritic effects due to its strong antagonism of the H1 receptor.
- Calamine lotion, containing zinc oxide and iron(III) oxide, is a traditional remedy for mild itching, such as that typically associated with chicken pox - although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has asserted that it has little if any effect.78
- Paste of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and water, applied topically9
- Ammonium hydroxide (household ammonia), applied topically9 (However it can relieve some kinds of insect stings which itch, such as mosquito bites, by neutralizing an acid component of the sting.citation needed)
- Papain based topical creams.
- Cooling with ice or cold water (usually stops the itch for as long as the ice or cold water is applied)citation needed
- Slightly painful stimulation like rubbing, slapping, scratching, or heating based on a spinal antagonism between pain- and itch-processing neuronscitation needed
- Turpentine (used with extreme caution) to wipe affected areas of the skin followed by a wash with hot water and soap. Also effective to wipe any surface such as door knobs, tools, etc... which may have come into contact with the irritant. Do not allow the turpentine to remain on the skin.
- Pine tree gum applied to the affected areas for short periods of time can help in drawing out the oils and drying the skin. Wash the affected area after removing and discarding the gum in soap and water.
- Frequent washing of the affected areas in hot water with a drying soap removes oils that come to the surface as the blisters form and provides temporary relief from itching.
- Antimicrobial hand sanitizers and Solarcaine(TM) spray both help in reducing itching, help to dry out the areas affected and allow air to penetrate.
- For itching due to dry skin, take shorter showers and try to avoid water that is too hot; after showering and drying off, apply an emollient to the skin like baby oil or even petroleum jelly (this will help to seal in moisture).
- Hercogová J (2005). "Topical anti-itch therapy". Dermatologic therapy 18 (4): 341–3. doi:10.1111/j.1529-8019.2005.00033.x. PMID 16297007.
- D. Long, N. H. Ballentine, J. G. Marks. Treatment of poison ivy/oak allergic contact dermatitis with an extract of jewelweed. Am. J. Contact. Dermat. 8(3):150-3 1997 PMID 9249283
- M. R. Gibson, F. T. Maher. Activity of jewelweed and its enzymes in the treatment of Rhus dermatitis. J. Am. Pharm. Assoc. Am. Pharm. Assoc. 39(5):294-6 1950 PMID 15421925
- J. D. Guin, R. Reynolds. Jewelweed treatment of poison ivy dermatitis. Contact Dermatitis 6(4):287-8 1980 PMID 6447037
- Zink, B. J.; Otten, E.J.; Rosenthal, M.; Singal, B (1991). "The Effect Of Jewel Weed In Preventing Poison Ivy Dermatitis". Journal of Wilderness Medicine 2 (3): 178–182. doi:10.1580/0953-9859-2.3.178. Retrieved 2008-01-16.
- Lee CS, Koo J (2005). "Psychopharmacologic therapies in dermatology: an update". Dermatologic clinics 23 (4): 735–44. doi:10.1016/j.det.2005.05.015. PMID 16112451.
- "American Topics. An Outdated Notion, That Calamine Lotion". Archived from the original on 19 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-19.
- Appel, L.M. Ohmart and R.F. Sterner, Zinc oxide: A new, pink, refractive microform crystal. AMA Arch Dermatol 73 (1956), pp. 316–324. PMID 13301048
- Paul Tawrell, Wilderness Camping and Hiking(Falcon Distribution, 2008), 212.
- Frontiers in pruritus research: scratching the brain for more effective itch therapy J. Clin. Invest. 116:1174-1185 (2006). DOI 10.1172/JCI28553