Anti-Itch Creams and Remedies for Babies and Children

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Whether your child is itchy from bug bites, hives, or poison ivy, some over-the-counter creams and home remedies can bring relief.

While these remedies may help, see your pediatrician if unsure what’s causing the itch.

Your healthcare provider can make sure your child gets the proper treatment.

This article covers common home treatments for itching in babies and children, including over-the-counter (OTC) products and medications your pediatrician may prescribe.

Verywell / Emily Roberts

Topical Steroids to Relieve Itching

Topical steroids are the go-to treatment for itch relief.

These creams or ointments are applied to the skin and work well for inflammatory or allergic itches, such as those caused by bug bites and poison ivy.

Most of these creams contain 0.5% or 1% hydrocortisone.

Popular brands include:

  • Aveeno 1% Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream
  • Cortizone 10
  • Cortaid
  • Lanacort Cool Cream

You can also try a store-brand hydrocortisone cream—for example, those made by Walgreens, CVS, and Walmart.

Hydrocortisone creams are not recommended for children under the age of 2.

Check with your child’s healthcare provider to find out which topical steroids are safe.

When to Avoid Steroids

If you think your child has an infection that’s causing an itch, do not use steroids.

Rubbing steroid cream on infected skin can worsen a rash and lower the body’s ability to fight off bacteria.

Anti-Itch Non-Steroidal Treatments

You can also put a non-steroidal anti-itch product and a topical steroid on your child’s skin.

Some of these creams or gels have an antihistamine-like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) in them.

These products block a chemical called histamine, which is involved in allergic reactions and itching.

Benadryl Cream and Oral Medications

Benadryl cream and oral Benadryl should not be used together. The medication can make children sleepy even in normal doses.

Topical medications that are not steroids include:

  • Aveeno Anti-Itch Concentrated Lotion
  • Benadryl Itch-Stopping Cream
  • Caladryl Clear Topical Analgesic Skin Lotion
  • Calamine Lotion
  • Domeboro Astringent Solution Powder Packets
  • Gold Bond Maximum Strength Medicated Anti-Itch Cream
  • Itch-X Anti-Itch Gel with Soothing Aloe Vera
  • Lanacane Anti-Itch Cream Max Strength
  • Sarna Ultra Anti-Itch Cream

You can apply a wet dressing or compress to your child’s skin.

A soak with Domeboro powder mixed with water (a modified Burow’s solution) or an Aveeno oatmeal bath can also be soothing.

Watch for Allergic Reactions

If you’re using a skin-numbing cream (anesthetic), watch your child to ensure they do not have an allergic reaction. Allergies to these products are pretty standard.

You can tell that a product has an anesthetic because it usually has “-caine” in the name.

Oral Antihistamines

Benadryl is a common medication to give kids to help with itching. However, Benadryl only lasts for a short time (about four to six hours) and can make kids sleepy.

You do not need a prescription for Benadryl. You can buy the product OTC at your local pharmacy or grocery store.

Benadryl comes in different forms, including liquids, chewable, and dissolving tablets. Having more than one type to choose from is helpful—if your child cannot swallow pills, you have other options.

A prescription-strength drug such as Atarax Vistaril (hydroxyzine) can sometimes help children with itching that OTC products have not helped with.

Home Remedies and Alternative Treatments

There are some simple steps you can take at home to help soothe your child’s itching and prevent harm to their skin from scratching, such as:

  • Keep your child’s fingernails short
  • Dress your child in loose, light, cotton clothing
  • Prevent your child from overheating (sweat may make your child itch more)
  • Find fun ways to keep your child distracted
  • Make sure your child’s skin does not get too dry
  • Avoid things that trigger itching, especially if your child has eczema, sensitive skin, or allergies
  • Use insect repellents when outdoors and teach your child how to avoid poison ivy
  • Have your child wear soft cotton gloves to bed to protect skin from scratching

Since some treatments, like topical steroids, aren’t safe for babies and very young kids, some natural and alternative treatments can be safer options in addition to the steps above.

For example:

  • Warm (not hot) or cool showers or baths (try adding oatmeal)
  • Using gentle soaps, household cleaners, and laundry products
  • Changing wet diapers as soon as possible to avoid diaper rash
  • Trying natural moisturizers like cold-pressed oils (e.g., coconut)

Prescription Treatments

If you do not know why your child is itching, or you cannot get the itching under control, it’s time to call your pediatrician for advice.

Your child’s provider can diagnose the problem and prescribe a prescription-strength medication if needed. These creams often include more substantial steroid doses, such as:

  • Cutivate cream 0.05%
  • Elocon cream 0.1%
  • Locoid cream 0.1%
  • Triamcinolone acetonide 0.1%
  • Westcort cream 0.2%

Other options include oral antihistamines, corticosteroids such as prednisone, or other medications. The treatment will depend on what’s causing the itch.

For example, a child with scabies (a condition that is both itchy and contagious) might need Elimite to treat parasites.

Prednisone (a steroid) might help a child with poison ivy, but a child with chickenpox might need to avoid steroids.

Summary

Itching can be challenging for kids and parents to deal with. You can try at-home remedies like dressing your child in loose, light clothes, doing a warm or cool bath and compresses, and using OTC anti-itch treatments to ease the scratching.

You can buy itch-stopping topical remedies with or without steroids at your local pharmacy or grocery store. You can also try oral OTC anti-itch medications, which come in different forms.

Call your pediatrician if home remedies or OTC products don’t help your child’s itching or if you’re not sure what’s making your child itch.

They can diagnose the problem and ensure your child gets the proper treatment.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Vincent Iannelli, MD

 Vincent Iannelli, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Iannelli has cared for children for more than 20 years. 

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