From Itch to Scratch

Sometimes we take care of our tickly skin itches easily. A little rub with our index finger, and our skin is satisfied. That was all it needed. But what if a little rub doesn’t work? You already know how this is going to go, especially if you are a person who has skin problems from atopic dermatitis. There’s a place where we have to make a decision about exactly how long before we respond to the itch. From itch to scratch is that place where time is suspended and the second hands on the clock move in slow motion.

The anatomy of a scratch

It usually starts out as a little flicker of a tickle, lasting only a split second. We notice, but usually don’t take action.

If it comes back soon and lingers for say…… a few seconds, we make a mental note. Scratch alert.


For those of us who know our itches, we can take some form of action here.

  1. Maybe we rub a little lotion, medication, or some salve on it.
  2. It could be time to move around and get busy doing something else.

If the distraction works, we become immersed in the next thing and the little itch goes away.

The pesky persistent itch

But if that itch persists, we are moving into different territory, especially if we have habitual itching addictions. We may have to add a layer of protection. Literally, it may be time to put something on. If it’s your elbow, find a lightweight shirt or jacket that has full sleeves. If it’s your ear, maybe a hat would work. I’m not sure that any of these would help if it were your nose. Of course cotton gloves cover the itching fingers and solves the whole problem.

That is unless the itch persists. Even with cotton gloves on, and the best of intentions, we may still scratch. We’ve all done that slow moving of a piece of fabric on the place that is calling for attention. Sometimes we push down slowly and forcefully – not quite itching, but more than gently rubbing.

Then there comes the moment when the gloves are coming off. Without a thought, we are scratching. Ahhhhh. Yes. Yes. Yes. Happily, relief can come fairly quickly. It’s all in knowing when to stop.

Once the itch has been properly scratched, the evaluation time comes.

I can’t get no (scratch) satisfaction

Are we satisfied? Was that enough? We may give it a little pat of finality. There you go. All scratched and properly taken care of.

Then we wait. A little more of a rub might let us know if it’s over. We take a deep breath and let out a sigh of relief. When the little tickle hits, those of us with eczema or psoriasis know that it can lead us into trouble. With adults, this pattern is easy to detect. I’ve watched my granddaughter detect itching cycles. Even now, I can watch her hands move through the patterns. Rub. Lotion. Jacket or blanket. Full out scratch session. If your dry or scaly skin becomes itching we are always evaluating the progression, and the choices we make from itch to scratch.

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