Medicinal treatments for itching

Itching has many different origins and is a source of discomfort. To deal with pruritus and thus relieve patients’ symptoms, doctors may prescribe one or more medications.




Medications belonging to the class of anti-histamines are very often prescribed or recommended as treatments against pruritus. They counter the action of histamine, a chemical mediator involved among other things in allergic reactions. There are many anti-histamines on the market, both oral and dermal. Oral anti-histamines are well suited for histamine-dependent pruritic diseases such as hives or sun allergies.
However, in other indications, the effectiveness is not always there: not all types of itching are linked to the release of histamine, or are linked but to a minimal extent. The drowsiness induced by oral anti-histamines can alleviate some itching, especially at night, but it is also an adverse side effect to be taken into account.


Again, this is a very common class of drugs used against itching, most often applied to the skin but sometimes taken by mouth. Corticosteroids are powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic agents. Creams and ointments containing cortisone are effective on certain types of itching of dermatological origin like for example in cases of psoriasis or eczema.

Other medications

Depending on the origin of the itching, your doctor might prescribe other classes of medication:

  • Local or oral immunosuppressants for some types dermatological pruritus;
  • Biotherapies, which have been used for many years in the treatment of psoriasis and more recently in the treatment of eczema, can act on pruritus in an indirect way;
  • Anti-infectives, such as antiparasitics for scabies or antivirals for shingles;
  • Psychoactive drugs, for example anxiolytics and antidepressants in cases of pruritus of psychogenic origin;
  • Hepatobiliary drugs in cases of pruritus related to cholestasis or cholangitis;
  • Etc.

There is no single drug treatment for itching. Medicinal treatment of pruritus depends on the cause and most often requires the advice of a health professional. In parallel, an adaptation of hygiene and skin care is recommended for optimal relief.

Back to top