Wednesday, November 25, 2009

real advice for itchy skin

{Skip this blog post if you have no interest in itchy skin.}

I've learned a lot with this itchy skin and thought I should pass on the information to anyone searching about postpartum itchy skin on the internet. This, of course, is just based on my own experience. Here is what I have learned:

1. The doctors will likely not have an answer for you, but go see them anyway so you can get a steroid cream and/or antihistamine.

2. If the rash/itching is an allergic reaction to the meds given to you in the hospital, the allergic reaction will show up 8 or 9 days after the baby's birth. The fact that mine showed up about 2 1/2 weeks later meant it was not.

3. Your body is going through so many changes (hormones coming and going after birth) that your skin may have just become ultra sensitive and you might just have to wait it out. I know--this sucks.

4. Go see a dermatologist as soon as possible. I saw my regular doctor after a week of itching. He said to use hydrocortizone cream, Eucerin or Cetaphil, and perhaps Claritin and said to give it a couple weeks to see if it got better. After a week it had gotten worse, so I went to see the dermatologist. She said my doctor's advice was weak sauce and gave me a prescription for a steroid cream and said to come back in a week if it didn't get better. That essentially means the week I waited after seeing my regular doctor was a waste of a week. Go straight to your dermatologist.

5. Hydrocortizone cream is "like spitting in the ocean." Those words came out of the dermatologist's mouth. In other words, it sucks and isn't worth using for serious itching.

6. Over-the-counter antihystamines (like Claritan and Alavert) are not strong enough to affect itchy skin. Dermatologist said I'd need a prescription antihistamine, which she didn't give me for reasons I list below.

7. Prescription antihistamines are transferred through breastmilk to your baby and make him/her drowsy. The dermatologist recommended against doing this since it's important to be able to notice changes in your newborn's behavior in case they get sick. If they are drugged up and drowsy, those changes may not be noticeable.

8. The dermatologist prescribed a steroid cream for me (which she said was fine to use while breastfeeding) and said it would both treat the problem and the itching, while other topical creams only treat the itching.

9. Warmth actually makes the itching inflamed. Hot showers may feel good at the time, but will make the itching worse after the shower. The reason you wake up at night itching horribly is because you are all warm and toasty in bed.

10. Your body isn't good at detecting itching and cold at the same time. Cold wins. Take lukewarm (cold is best if you can handle it) showers and baths. Dress to keep cool. Use Sarna anti-itch lotion. It gives you a menthol feeling on your skin so your skin feels cold.

11. When you get out of the shower, pat yourself dry, and immediately put on the steroid cream followed by Eucerin or Cetaphil cream. Not the lotion. The nasty, super thick cream. This supposedly locks in the moisture. I think it just feels gross. But you do what you gotta do, right?

So there you have it. Everything I learned in the last 3 weeks. Itching sucks, especially when you'd like to be snuggling with your baby and you are instead handing him off to your husband so you can go get in a cold tub.


Julie Laughlin said...

you poor thing. my whole life has been filled with steroid creams and cetaphil cream! we have 2 giant tubs of it right now and i use that lotion for leah because she itches her skin all the time. keep us all posted on how you are feeling. itching is the worst!!

Kerri said...

9 10 and 11 is what I learned when pregnant with Carter. I HATED IT!!! (mine was the last 10 weeks, not after like yours). I never passed on that advice, did I? How rude! I even had ice packs at work to put on my belly to stop the itching....So are you feeling better?