- 4 years ago
- Wedding: November 2013
So if you’ve ever had this, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It typically occurs about 24-72 hours after a sunburn on your back and shoulders (no idea why those are the common areas). I experienced this about 10 years ago, and it was by far the most exruciating, madenning experience of my life. I’m not talking about the typical itchy/peely skin that is normally associated with a sunburn. I’m talking about a painful, stabbing itch that you cannot relieve by scratching. It feels like fire ants crawling and biting underneath your skin. It makes you INSANE and people around you become dumbfounded by your insane person behavior. Covering your back with gasoline and lighting it on fire might actually cross your mind at the time. It also goes by the name “Hell Itch” “Devil’s Itch” and “Suicide Itch.”
So anyway, this past week I got the kind of burn that caused this reaction years back and I was terrified of it happening again. So I spent hours on the interweb looking for remedies for my anticipated torture. Here is what I found, and what worked for me. Luckily, I succesfully prevented it, but included what seemed to be the remedy by consensus from those who were able to find relief.
1. Right after the burn start drinking an assload of water and take an aspirin – it helps stop inflammation.
2. Try to avoid bathing for 1-3 days after the burn. Immediately afterwards should be ok, but just be funky after that. I know this sounds disgusting, but if you read internet accounts of people experiencing the “Hell Itch,” it usually starts after a shower. Then they end up trying to take a cold bath (I did), running like a mad person around their house (I did), applying goop (yup…this too..see below) and generally losing their minds.
3. Start popping benedryl every few hours. From the time of the burn until about 3 days later. It will lower the amount of histamine in your body and lessen the Hell itch when it comes. And yeah, you will be in a benedryl funk for a few days, but it beats the alternative.
3. Do not – I repeat – DO NOT start applying aloe, numbing sprays, steroid creams once the serious itching starts. A lot of people seemed to find themselves in the ER (for the itch insanity, not the burn) and were prescibed various lotions that only made things worse for them. Of course, I’m not telling people not to seek medical help if they are burned and in need of care, I’m talking about the severe itching that can follow a burn. “Goop” will only make it worse. The reason is that this particular itch starts after the skin has started to heal. When you start gooping up your back to get relief, you clog up your pores and the histamine kind of gets trapped inside, which intensifies that horrible itch/stab feeling. I admit, this is not proven medical advice, but I could not find any peer-reviewed type of info on this as it is a poorly researched phenomenom. But anyone who has suffered from this knows that it gets worse with every application of “goop.”
4. Get into a scorching hot shower for relief. I know this sounds counterintuitive for a sunburn, but activating the pain receptors will shut off the itch receptors–at least while you’re in there.
5. Peppermint oil!!!! There seems to be a consensus among sufferers that this is the only “goop” that helps. Tell someone to go find you some while you’re boiling yourself in the shower. I think some drugstores, health food stores, and GNC places have some. I just bought some from Amazon and will never be without it again.
I hope this helps anyone who is desperately searching for help if this happens to them one day. It might seem like a bizarre post, but it is really some of the worst suffering imaginable (google search “Hell Itch” if you’re the sick type who finds these types of stories entertaining). From what I’ve read, it can affect about 10% of the population. It’s more common in people who cannot tan, and it almost always seems to affect the back/shoulder area. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.