‘Happiness is having a scratch for every itch.’
– Ogden Nash.
‘I enjoy scratching itches on my body with my beard stubble. The worst though is when my lower back itches.’
– Jarod Kintz.
To itch is to have or produce an unpleasant feeling on your skin or inside your mouth, nose, etc. that makes you want to scratch.1 Scratching is the act of rubbing your skin with something sharp (such as your fingernails) especially in order to stop an itch.2
In her article ‘Why Does Scratching an Itch Feel Good?’ posted on the Healthy Living Website on March 30, 2009, Jaime McLeod says that, “When we scratch, we cause minor pains, causing the brain to flood the area with pain-reducing chemicals that override the itch.”
Study conducted at the University of Minnesota has also shown that scratching does actually turn off activity in the spinal cord nerves that are involved in the transmission of the itch sensation to the brain.
Scratching also helps scrape off the dead cells of the skin. This allows new skin to develop as the skin regenerates itself, ensuring that it remains healthy and protective.
The benefits of scratching are, however, good for the everyday normal itches. This is because, other causes of itching may result into persistent scratching that may damage the skin. It has been found that, at times, victims scratch themselves to bleeding points! This exposes one to dangers of other infections.
“Scratching may ease emotions triggered by itching, but it’s still not good for skin.” writes Miranda Hitti for the WebMD Health News.
Neuroscience Professor Glenn Giester, Jr. — the study leader at the University of Minnesota, that conducted experiments on itching and scratching — echoes that, “Scratching an ordinary itch usually does not harm. But chronic itching may respond to scratching only very temporary or not at all.” He further says that it robs one of sleep, cause depression or even worse damage.
“Its no good idea to scratch bites, rashes and other kinds of long term itches,” advises Jaime McLeod. For itches that are caused by histamine, application of antihistamine ointments is highly recommended.
Other conditions that may cause chronic itching include; AIDS, eczema, Hodgkin’s disease, renal failure or even liver disease.
Scratching is good, ordinarily.
‘They can’t be divorced, itch and scratch.’
– Dr. Gil Yosipovitch, Lead Author and Dermatologist
Wake Forest University, Winston, Salem, N.C.