Why we itch

Cecil darling, haven’t you ever noticed that after a mosquito or flea bite there is some disagreeable stuff deposited under the skin? Couldn’t itch be a signal to scratch and dig it out before it festers or spreads its poison through the body? A small, clean wound from scratching could be more easily repaired than malaria toxins. This was always my uninformed (and to me, logical) explanation.

The itching is a result of a common allergic reaction to the anti-coagulants in the mosquito’s saliva. Malaria isn’t a “toxin” but rather an infectious disease from parasitic organisms. No amount of scratching would rid you of them once initial infection has occurred from the insertion of the mosquito’s proboscis.

The mention of heat or cold in anti-itch treatment is under reported. We live in the tropics. When we get bitten and an itch starts, we simply “blow out” the nerve pathway by directing the heat of a common hair dryer onto the bite site. You hold the heat until just as it feels it might be burning; pull away and wait for a couple of seconds; re-heat; pull away; re-heat. Amazingly, the nerve pathway will remain itch free for between 4 to 6 hours. It works every time.

Was it just me,or did this article make anyone else itchy all over?

Interesting column - I learned a lot!

Editing suggestions: There’s an unneeded break between the fourth and fifth lines in the third paragraph of Cecil’s answer. Also, on the very last line of the last paragraph, it looks like you need an “an” between the words “relieving itch.”

Reminded me of this old one (Ogden Nash?)
One bliss for which
there is no match
Is when you itch
To up and scratch.

Itching is actually a side effect *caused *by opioids (like morphine and oxycodone), not just an independent phenomenon that becomes more noticeable when it’s no longer being drowned out by pain. See this news release from Washington University’s Center for the Study of Itch:

Researchers block morphine’s itchy side effect

The bad news is that WU’s researchers only blocked itch receptors in *mice; *the good news is that that’s the first step toward eventually blocking them in humans.

[I have no background in science and the only reason I know about this is because my 85-year-old father recently broke his arm and was initially provided pretty much the same treatment I imagine was used during the Civil War: morphine and a sling. The morphine-induced itching was so severe he broke the skin scratching himself. Benadryl made him “altered” (loopy) and second-generation antihistamines were ineffective, so he was switched from morphine to hydromorphone (Dilaudid) and had much less itching on that. Having to take pills every three hours, day and night, wasn’t much fun, though, and neither was the subsequent withdrawal. Clearly, a vast amount of research remains to be done in the area of pain management.]