Depending on the cause of itchy skin, the irritation can be treated with topical medications that contain camphor, benzocaine, pramoxine, menthol, diphenhydramine or phenol, notes Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, for MedicineNet. Some skin itching responds well to creams and lotions that contain hydrocortisone. Cold baths, showers and ice packs can temporarily relieve the sensation of itching. Oral antihistamines such as Benadryl, Claritin and Allegra also help symptoms of itching.
Stöppler explains that antihistamines are either sedating or nonsedating, and the sedating forms may only superficially relieve itching by causing a person to fall asleep. These drugs, such as diphenhydramine, hydroxyzine and chlorpheniramine, can be dangerous when taken prior to operating heavy machinery or driving a vehicle. Nonsedating antihistamines such as loratidine and fexofenadine are the best choices for people who wish to remain alert, but they do not work as effectively at reducing itching as sedating drugs. Hydrocortisone treatments are only effective against itching that is caused by conditions such as eczema and seborrhea.
Lotions and creams containing anesthetics work to dull the nerves that are signaling the sensation of itching to the brain. They can be applied as frequently as needed, and they help to prevent scratching. If topical and oral itching treatments are used consistently without any relief, Stöppler recommends visiting a doctor to analyze the symptoms. Itching that is accompanied by excessive scratching and skin lesions should be medically treated to avoid infection.