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Resisting the Itch

By    |   Tuesday, 09 Sep 2014 04:41 PM

People used to call me the Queen of Rashes. I would break out in hives when I needed antibiotics for infections developed during or after chemotherapy. I broke out when I was receiving infusions of platelets. You name it, it made me itch.
 
Once, I was rushed to the hospital by ambulance after having fainted in my home between chemotherapy sessions. I was covered head to toe with my worst rash ever. Shifting my position on the stretcher offered only slight relief, yet I knew I had to keep my hands by my sides and not scratch.
 
Benadryl and the stronger prescription drug Atarax (hydroxyzine) were temporary remedies. But antihistamines can really knock you out. Sarna lotion and a prescription cortisone cream also worked, though not for very long.
 
I’m not alone — itching can make people crazy,
 
One cancer patient on a discussion board at the Navigating Cancer and Blood Disorders website wrote, “I’ve tried every cream, ointment and lotion and still it persists.” Another said, “My skin is so horrible, I literally rip holes in my legs, it is so unbearable. “
 
Causes include lymphoma and other cancers, certain chemotherapy drugs such as Xeloda (capecitabine) and Herceptin (trastuzumab), anemia, even stress.
 
Diarrhea and vomiting during chemotherapy can lead to dehydration — another cause of itchy skin. So it’s important to hydrate.
 
“Itching is a most peculiar and diabolical sensation,” surgeon and author Dr. Atul Gawande wrote in a past issue of The New Yorker. “Itch has been ranked, by scientific and artistic observers alike, among the most distressing physical sensations one can experience.”
 
My doctor told me that hot water is the worst thing for itchy skin, because it melts the natural protective oils on the skin’s outer layer. Soap gets rid of the oils even more, leading to dry skin, which can be itchy itself. So even if they don’t feel as good, short, cool showers are better for your skin.
 
Many people told me that products made from natural ingredients offered relief. For example, Udder Cream, originally developed for use on dairy cows, seemed to work.
 
Coconut oil spray and even coconut shortening lathered on while I was in the shower also helped.
 
And surprisingly, oats can help because of the fats and sugars they contain.
 
Oats can be used in a baths, in powdered form called colloidal oatmeal, which is available in drugstores. They can be put in a cool bath directly or tied up in any porous container, even a sock, and allowed to soak. (Do not use unpowdered oats. If you dump them in the tub they will fall to the bottom and leave a mess.)
 
You can also make your own oatmeal solution by wrapping one cup of oatmeal in a cotton cloth and boiling it for a few minutes until it’s soft. Then you can use it as a sponge while bathing, or, if the itch is localized, gently rub it on the skin in the affected area.
 
Scratching, on the other hand, will only make things worse. Unfortunately, once you start, it’s hard to stop. Dermatologists call it the “itch-scratch syndrome,” believed to have evolved to protect us from insects and plant toxins.
 
Take it from me, the Queen of Rashes: It’s a powerful impulse. Luckily, I’ve found a few things to help me resist the itch.

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Ronni-Gordon
People used to call me the Queen of Rashes. I would break out in hives when I needed antibiotics for infections developed during or after chemotherapy.
itch, rash, oats, chemotherapy, cancer
558
2014-41-09
Tuesday, 09 Sep 2014 04:41 PM
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