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Itching

What is causing the itching?

If itching is in just one area (localized) it could have many possible causes including:

  • Contact dermatitis (skin irritation from a plant, chemicals, fiberglass, soap, shampoo, detergents, new cosmetic, eye makeup, nickel jewelry, or other substance)
  • Fungus (such as athlete's foot, jock itch, or ringworm)
  • Head lice
  • Dandruff
  • Insect bite

There are many possible causes if your child is itching all over. Some possible causes include:

  • Dry skin
  • Eczema
  • Heat rash
  • Chickenpox
  • Hives

How can I take care of my child?

  • Localized itching

    For itching caused by an irritant, wash the area once thoroughly with soap to remove any remaining irritants. Thereafter avoid using soaps on this area. Put cold, moist compresses or ice on the area for 20 minutes every 3 to 4 hours to reduce itching. Follow this with 1% hydrocortisone cream (no prescription needed) 4 times a day. Cut your child's fingernails short and encourage him not to scratch.

    Try to figure out what caused the rash and avoid this substance in the future.

    For other causes of localized itching, see related topics.

  • Widespread itching

    The following measures may help to relieve itching regardless of the cause:

    • Wash the skin once with soap to remove irritants.
    • Give your child cool baths every 3 to 4 hours unless your child has dry skin.
    • Then put calamine lotion (nonprescription) or a baking soda solution (1 teaspoon in 4 ounces of water on the skin). For very itchy spots, apply 1% hydrocortisone cream (no prescription needed) unless your child has chickenpox.
    • Encourage your child not to scratch and cut your child's fingernails short.
    • Your child should not wear itchy or tight clothes and should temporarily avoid excessive heat, sweating, soaps, and swimming pools.
    • For hives, an antihistamine such as Benadryl will be helpful.

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?

Call during office hours if:

  • The itching keeps your child from sleeping.
  • The itching becomes severe.
  • The itching lasts more than 1 week.
  • You have other concerns or questions.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2009-06-19
Last reviewed: 2012-05-14
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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