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What causes this particular type of sunburn itch?
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What causes this particular type of sunburn itch?

So...I just graduated with a degree in environmental biology. I have a working knowledge of basic (I mean, VERy basic) animal (and human) physiology, but most of my courses were more "big picture" kinda things. Oh, and lots of stats.

Anyway, so 2 days ago I got this sunburn on my back. It's not horrible, but it is a healthy pink. Pretty painful. Now, I have this...condition. When I get a decent sunburn, I itch, but it's not the "normal" sunburn itch. It happens exactly 2 days after the initial sunburn. It is what I have come to know as "hell itch". I've found descriptions on numerous forums that describe this itch to a "T". It drives you insane. You become a madman/madwoman for about a day. You cannot scratch it. Any type of lotion/cream/ANYTHING causes it to itch more, ESPECIALLY the creams designed specifically for sunburn.

Now here's the deal: I'm not a sissy. I'm very outdoorsy. I can take some pain. But I can't take the "hell itch". I need to know: what causes it? I know that your body is getting rid of the dead skin cells and new skin is...blah blah blah, yeah I get that but that doesn't give me any specifics. What is the biological mechanism that drives this itching? My thinking is, if I know what causes it (specifically), I'll better know how to treat it.

For example, if it's a histamine response to the dead skin cells/debris that are still present in the skin, I would think a strong anti-histamine (prescription strength hydroxyzine perhaps? I mention this specifically because I have a small stash of it from an old prescription) would help. I also know dry skin is a leading cause of itching, but as I mentioned before lotions/skin moisturizers seem to make it unbearably worse. Anyway, any help would be greatly appreciated. And remember: this is NOT the normal sunburn itch.
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563773_tn?1374250139
Hello,
From the symptoms it can be solar urticaria caused by release of histamine or notalgia parasthetica. It also presents as itchy, dark pigmented patch seen one the back or trunk. Sensation to light touch, temperature, vibration, and two-point discrimination may be normal or abnormal.

Apply cool compresses on the area and take bath with cool(not very cold) water. Do not scrub your skin or shave your skin and use a soft towel and gently pat your skin dry.Also use a sunburn Over-The-Counter remedy containing aloe vera and a light moisturizer or a dusting powder to relieve chafing.You can apply silver sulfadiazine (1% cream) on the skin except face and see if it helps.If the symptoms still persist then you should consult a dermatologist. In future also wear sunscreen while going out in the sun.

I hope it helps. Take care and regards.

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Avatar_f_tn
I have had to deal with this a few times  over the last 30 odd years. 2-3 times for myself and with my children.
First off this is not the ordinary itch that comes with a sunburn. That is the thing that people who have never experienced it cannot understand! They think you are weak or a wimp and have to "suck it up." This itch and the pain it causes, is probably the worst thing I have ever had to deal with in my life!!
I have found 1 thing that had worked...
Forget aloe, sunburn sprays, baking soda, lotions, peppermint oil, hot showers, cold showers, none of it will give you relief and some of it will make it worse! You need ATARAX OR HYDROXYZINE!! Let me repeat, nothing else short of getting past out drunk will have any lasting effect. Cold showers can give momentary relief but as soon as you dry off it comes back with a vengeance!
I had to deal with this recently with my son. Knowing what he was going through , it tore my heart out seeing him in such agony. I took him to the ER and thank God, the doctor listened to me and immediately prescribed the atarax, with in 30 minutes the symptoms were gone and the poor guy was sleeping.
It seems to be a genetic thing, my brother and daughter suffer with it too. I have twin sons, one has symptoms, one did not, this time.
This is an internal reaction, been told something to do with the release of melatonin. Usually happens 48 hours after getting burned. No topical treatment will work. Good luck and god be with anyone who has to deal with this!!!
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Avatar_f_tn
Wow- that's too bad that nothing topical works for your family! I, too, suffer from "ICI" (Insanity Causing Itch) and sadly have it right NOW. (anyone feeling the need to preach to me, please know that I wore 110 waterproof spf suncreen and re-applied it multiple times, sat under a UV ray protective umbrella, and put on a tee shirt when I stepped out from under the umbrella. No, I'm not a vampire, but I AM just about transparent) Anyway- I have tried just about every suggestion I've come across and am lucky enough to have found 2 topical remedies that sometimes (emphasis on SOMETIMES) work for me. The peppermint oil worked pretty well for me. I was alone (augh!) when the ICI started so I globbed Aqua-for (basically petroleum jelly that blends and absorbs a bit easier) onto an old food bowl scraper (ha! take THAT ICI!) and generously dropped some peppermint oil onto the Aqua. Worked pretty good and I smell minty fresh ;) The other thing I use that works almost EVERY time is vapo-rub. (like vicks ointment) If you read the container it says it's good for bug bites, sunburns, minor cuts, minor burns, sore muscles, and I even have friends that swear by it for pregger induced hemmorhoids! Anyway----anything else  I've ever tried does, indeed, make the itching WORSE. If this happens to your family again (and I hope it doesn't! I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy, much less a child!) maybe you can try to vapo-rub just until you can get a script and have it kick in? Worth a shot! Even 10% relief is HUGE! :) Happy Summer!
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Avatar_f_tn
dear fellow victims, I went through this the first time and god damn it was the longest 24 hours of my life....i was sensitive to everything and every movement , even laying down brought the pain back, it was like a million knives stabbing you consistently it would go away and come back, I couldn't sleep and nothing will work, the only cure is to wait out the 24 hours because it does go away , during this evil time I went online and read up other peoples experiences and that help past the time, good luck to those of you and remember use sun screen when you go out next time!!!!!
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Avatar_m_tn
Luckily I only had to suffer through this once before, but I just received a sunburn the other day and the "hell itch" started this morning. I had no idea I had this problem till this morning (since it only happened once before.) When this itch came back I had instant flashbacks of how terrible it was the first time and how I spent all night in the fetal position twitching uncontrollably. I made the mistake of using aloe before researching what the problem was. It went crazy and I was headed down that path of insanity again. I immediately got online to try to find any relief from the pain. One of the first pages I came across mentioned peppermint oil. I had never heard of it but I had nothing to lose at this point so I went out looking for it (walgreens, cvs, local grocery store, and wal-mart did not carry it) but luckily I found that GNC carries it. I have to say, it was the best $6 I ever spent. I had no patience for checking if there was a specific way to apply it so I just slapped it on there generously. Once that ice cold feeling kicked in I was in heaven. The lobster redness turned to a light pink and I am about 99% itch free right now. I don't know if this works for everyone but it sure saved my day. There will always be a bottle of peppermint oil in my bathroom now.
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Avatar_m_tn
It just happened to me today for the 1st time in my life. I left the house to do some shopping, but when i got out the car, the force of hell started! An insane itch started on my back that i could not control, i start kicking myself, some screaming, taking my T-shirt of and scratching my back, but no relief at all. Whoever saw me in the parking lot legitimately assumed i am crazy.
So all this happened precisely 2 days after a decent(minor) sunburn, just about an hour in the sun in Toronto, end of May. I hardly make it back home, throw some aloe after sun burn lotion, it made a slight improvement on my hell's itch, and i had to keep applying for about 2-3 hours, then my wife got home and she start applying the lotion for me, and heavenly, after a few unsuccessful attempts to buy some peppermint oil( as recommended above) the hell's itch slowly went away. By the way, in Toronto, Bulk Burn carries the peppermint oil, as i just learned.
I had way worse sunburns before, and never went trough hell's itch, i wonder what had caused it this time?
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Avatar_f_tn
Hydroxyzine worked for me. I tried the peppermint oil, which worked for a brief time but stunk up the entire floor of the hotel. And with that I used Solarcaine spray.  Both worked for a bit, but the Hydroxyzine worked way better. I'm not one for meds, but the alternative is insane! To the person whom recommended it, THANK YOU!!!!!  I've been through pain in my life but this takes the cake. I was on a tour of the USS Missouri in Pear Harbor when it hit its worst, or what I thought was the worst. I had to leave my family to continue the tour. By the time I got to the hotel I thought I was going to die. Hell's Itch is the worst crap I've ever had to deal with.
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Avatar_f_tn
I too am going thru the hell itch. I am a fair-skinned redhead and have home thru this several times throughout my 38 years. It does start exactly 48 hrs after initial burn. Actually, knowing the itch is coming before it arrives is as psychologically devastating as the itch itself. I've found that if I stay on Benadryl throughout the it h it's not as bad. I also drink and try to limit showers, cold or warm. Aloe helped me a bit to, and MOST IMPORTANT, DO NOT SCRATCH, the it h will come back 20 times worse. God bless all who experience this.
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Avatar_m_tn
Mine just started and the wife is on the way to walgreens for peppermint oil. I have been rocking in a chair non-stop to calm my itch
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Avatar_f_tn
So yesterday was my second day having a sun burn and this itch started I tried all remedies mentioned with no success until I broke down went to the er everyone looked as if I was crazy and granted I probly looked like I was but I asked the doctor specifically for atarax and after saying he didn't think it would work and some convincing to try aloe over the counter remedy (which I tried already and made it worst) he gave in and gave it to me I took the pill and with in 15 min it started to reside and within 30 I was sleeping (best sleep I've got since the initial burn) now upon waking up I noticed itch was gone but being what it was I filled prescription he gave me pharmacy gave me hydroxyzine thank god I filled it I got to work (2nd shift) and it started back. About an hour ago I took the pill and hell itch has quit there is still the normal sunburn pain and itching but the unbearable pain that fills like someone shooting your sun burn with full auto air soft gun has subsided thanks for advice and for anyone going through this save yourself go see a doc
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Avatar_m_tn
I just had the same experience. I used factor 30 sun screen, long sleeved tshirt, hat, long trews... forgot about my neck. I was at an air show, and most of the time i had to keep returnign to the hanger for shade. However i still got minor sunburn, through the sun block, around my neck. the next day, very little pain, as expected, skin sort of sore. About 2 hours ago i tried to go to bed. I dont know what caused it, possibly the bedding against my skin, but the hell itch just exploded.

Slowly at first, i just thought it was irritation. So i got up, and within seconds it was unbearable.  Fortunately your neck is a very small area of skin... even so... it got to the point of me crying aloud out of pain and frustration with it. I usually have a high pain tolerance. I can go paintballing, come back covered in bruises and be fine... This was worse. I would rather be shot by a paint ball gun... several in fact...

out of desperation i set my shower to cool, and had it running over my shoulders, this seemed to relive enough for me to think strait. Prior to this i was punching my mattress very hard going mad. Another thing that helped (for me) was applying pressure to the area. I covered my neck with my hands and pressed. This deadened the itch for a short while... then i had to release, and try it again. Cold flannel did nothing. But ice cube did. I grabbed 2 cubes, one at each side of neck...

The ice allowed me to transition from a madman, screaming and flailing, into someone who just rocked and panted. But yes, as it said above, as soon as the cool wares off, the itch returns.. but for me, not as bad.

Unfortunately i'm on my own (my partner has gone to see her family) and its half 1 in the morning. So apart from what i have in the flat, i cant get anything.

Its subsided now, after about 2 hours... it may return... I am just grateful that ti is a small area. Though if it does come back, getting Hyroxyzine maybe difficult. I am in the UK, and the only way i can think of getting it, other than flailing and yelling in the back of a Taxi, is calling an ambulance, kinda feel overkill for sunburn... but damn, may have no choice
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Avatar_m_tn
Use Piriton allergy relief tablets or any other brand antihistamines.
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5748513_tn?1373530841
I think I just ended my bout of Hell's Itch and holy crows did I think I was dying. I know it itches because it's healing but it came in waves starting from the least burned areas to the worst, starting with my chest which was relieved with some Lotion and gentle rubbing, then my back which forced me so soak in some lukewarm water, two hours after my back came my arms which forced me back into the tub and while waiting for the tub to fill I was forced to bite down and scream into a towel it drove me so far mad and the second I sunk down into the water the pain immediately went away. Now I'm sitting here wondering when my blistered shoulders are going to get hit and fearing it all the same.
I've had worse sunburns than this before (never this vast across my body), but even so I've never felt such a terrible immense itching before.
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Avatar_m_tn
My son was going crazy from sunburn itch. Finally took him to the ER. Doctor said to take an anti-histamine (like Benadryl) for itch and an anti-inflammatory (like Aleve) to reduce the swelling. And, if still in pain can take a Tylenol. Polysporin only for skin was recommended - to ensure no infection. The recommendation for the hydroxyzine got us on the right track. Thx! Hydroxyzine is basically Benadryl, but you can only take it once every 8 hours. So, because you can take Benadryl every 4-6 hours, the itch can actually be a bit more comfortable.
Thx again! Hope this helps someone else!!!
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Avatar_m_tn
Had it yesterday. Lasted  from 9 AM to 1 AM (about 16 hours). The pain gradually decreased as time passed, with occasional unbearable spikes every 2-3 hours. Only hot showers saved me from those.
Cure (at least I think that's what stopped it.. might have just been time): anti-histamine pills and 20-minute warm/hot showers. You can get the pills over the counter at your local pharmacy. I think the anti-histamine pills were what really did the trick. It's pretty logical. If your body is emitting lots of histamines--whatever those are--assuming your sunburn is some allergy, then you need something to get rid of those histamines... Peppermint oil didn't seem to work for me. Nor did any creams (they only made it worse). I think you need to open up your pores. That's why hot water helps and creams make you itch more.
Oh and I drank quite a bit of water. Try it; can't hurt.

Also, don't stress. I was actually semi-laughing at how much I was  tossing and turning in bed, knowing this would pass soon.

Good luck!
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Avatar_m_tn
Had it yesterday. Lasted  from 9 AM to 1 AM (about 16 hours). The pain gradually decreased as time passed, with occasional unbearable spikes every 2-3 hours. Only hot showers saved me from those.
Cure (at least I think that's what stopped it.. might have just been time): anti-histamine pills and 20-minute warm/hot showers. You can get the pills over the counter at your local pharmacy. I think the anti-histamine pills were what really did the trick. It's pretty logical. If your body is emitting lots of histamines--whatever those are--assuming your sunburn is some allergy, then you need something to get rid of those histamines... Peppermint oil didn't seem to work for me. Nor did any creams (they only made it worse). I think you need to open up your pores. That's why hot water helps and creams make you itch more.
Oh and I drank quite a bit of water. Try it; can't hurt.

Also, don't stress. I was actually semi-laughing at how much I was  tossing and turning in bed, knowing this would pass soon.

Good luck!
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6007024_tn?1378240600
So glad to hear that there are others who get this "hell itch" or ICI...I had it starting last night and it drove me so nuts I started jumping up and down on my bed, running around my house, chewing on whatever I could get in my mouth, and I even ripped my shirt up. Thankfully my angelic wife saw these forums and read about peppermint oil. It has still been uncomfortable, but it has helped SO MUCH! Today was my first day of medical school and I would not have been able to get through it without the stuff. I am grateful for the experience because hopefully it will make me a more empathetic physician. God bless all of you.
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Avatar_m_tn
I have now had "Hell Itch" 3 times in my life.
I'm a bloke with a high pain tolerance, but the terrible sensation of Hell Itch drives me mad.

I first experienced it in my mid 20's after being outside without a shirt for 15 minutes in Noosa (Tropical Summer Day, in Queensland).
The sun scorched the skin on my back realy bad. I applied Aloe Vera straight away and ice packs trying to prevent the damage, but 48 hours later I had my first experience of Hells Itch!

Oh Boy!!! It was so itchy, you can't sit still, you end up jumping around, flailing your arms about, swearing, dancing... ahhhhhhh!!!!
The first thing that provided relief was jumping in the shower. But as soon as I go out the itch returned.
I then got a friend to constantly circle ice cubes on my back as this also worked to prevent All Hell from returning.

The second time was because the sunscreen I applied must have worn off on my back. Again, 48 hours later it appeared, straight to the shower, then applied an ice cold tinny (Beer Can) to my back to try and numb the itch.

The third time was again 48hrs after the sun burn my shoulders. Again I was itchy as a mad man. Again in the shower. This time, with one hand reaching out through the shower curtain I looked trying to find out more about this excruciating itch caused by sunburn on my smartphone.
Yep, "Hells Itch"
Perfect description of this little blighter!

Apply Aloe Vera, apply peppermint oil, apply vinegar. None of these would provide redemption for me.

It wasn't until I read that the itch was due to my body releasing histamines, that I reached for the medicine cabinet, grabbed an allergy anti-histamine FEXOFENADINE, swallowed it, then sprinted back into the shower, arms waving all over the place as the itch again set in.

But By-Jingo!!!!

30 minutes later and "You little Beauty" the Hell Itch was almost all gone and I could finally go to bed and sleep.

Thanks to the member who posted the itch is due to Histamines. I owe ya a beer.
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Avatar_f_tn
Hi everybody I'm 16 and today I got my first taste of hell itch and believe me its hell on its own. Seeing I have no cash to buy mint oil or can't go to the docs I figured I can cancel out the itching with a burn so I took a large towel soaked it in boiling water and pressed it to the burner area it works great and I almost went mad but its gone now just repeat the hot towel 5-10 times believe me the pain hurts like hell when you press down that towel but its worth it so good luck to the future people who struggles with the itch from hell
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Avatar_m_tn
I found the article below very interesting concerning itching. I have had many sunburns over my lifetime; 58 years.  Never had the itch from hell syndrome yet until day before yesterday.  I spent twenty years as a paratrooper and have broken many bones and am familiar with pain as if an old friend.  But when the itching started I was crying like a little girl. Jumping up and down and tore off my clothes and jumped into the shower.  I got relief from antihistamines and pure peppermint oil. Antihistamines alone did not fully stop the itch but the peppermint oil was like magic.  So the article below is not the full answer for me as the mechanics of histamines where always present in my body but why wait until this week.  I have had sun poisoning and sunburn many times but this was entirely different.  I have a theory and will research and repost but wanted to hit the submit button and will get back to you all.

http://www.menshealth.com/spotlight/skin/stop_itching.php

BURNS AND SCABS

As burns and other skin injuries heal, "remodeling" occurs: Dead tissue breaks down and makes space for healthy tissue, and nerves and blood vessels grow along with this new tissue, says Alan Fleischer, M.D., chairman of dermatology at the Wake Forest University school of medicine. Once the hard scar tissue forms, nerves are trapped and may be tickled when the tissue stretches or bends, he says. Moreover, the fibroblast cells that make up scar tissue can release chemicals that trigger itch nerves.

Treat it: This itching is a sign of healing, so feel encouraged. But if the power of positive thinking doesn't do the job, try Sarna Anti-Itch, an over-the-counter lotion that contains camphor and menthol to help numb the surface of the irritated area. Or you can try Lanacane, which contains another anesthetic, benzocaine—but use it sparingly.
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Avatar_f_tn
Ok ladys and gents with the itch thing going on im currently suffering from this and itchyness israli driving mens insane im scottish so i can get burnt with a ******* cresent moon from 12ish last night ive been jogging on the spot and speeking to myself wanting to even delibaritly trying to cry but like i said im scottish and weekend are all born without tear ducts im in uber shite state android contemplating the whole getting drunk thing cause its just impossible to sit still ashcroft this forum has many sufferers that hsve the same sort of mutant ability to wantef to scratch there self to death please help me with any suggestions to ease this
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Avatar_f_tn
Sorry this was done on my phone and its ment to say the itchyness is realy driving me insane
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Avatar_m_tn
Mother of F^&@ing God, i just got the hell itch. Worse, i was at work, outside, sweating. Feel lucky all you people were able to go home or were already there. I worked through it for maybe 20 mins..then i sprinted to my boss, told him what was going on and thank god he was forgiving and let me go. I then sprinted to a aquifer fountain, drenched my shirt in cold spring water (the burn was on my back, not a bad burn, but it was spread over my whole back), threw that **** on me and then had the most brutal walk (about a mile) to my car(i work up a mountain). I then raced home, kicked the door open, and yelled for my girlfriend. She thought i was snake bit by the way i was panicking. No, it was worse, id take on a rattlesnake before the damn uv rays from now on. I then got naked right inside my doorway and dove into the shower...that helped for ten minutes...then it was back. She applied a cold wet shirt diluted with vinegar on my back. I got carpet burn on my fist from punching our floor...i then got up and started circling looking for my solarcaine which is always my last ditch effort...that didnt work either. THANK F@#KING GOD FOR benadryl anti histamine lotion. You guys that had this stuff last for hours, Jesus Christ of latter fking day saints i feel for you guys. Im a pain tolerant guy, skateboarding, construction work (masonry, carpentry), being a ******* teen...you know, but the only thing ive ever had worse than this was a kidney stone i passed al-natural. Im gonna marry this benadryl bottle now, cheers and good luck everyone else.
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Avatar_m_tn
Just got this last night afterwards coming home at 3am, two days before my one of my finals. Just wanted to go to sleep when I started noticing the itch I've gotten earlier that day got worse. I literally started going nuts, I just wanted to sleep. I slapped aloe Vera and all kinds of hydrating lotions on there, took 5 aspirins and covered it in plenty Voltaren - nothing worked.
I ran around the house, bit down on a rolled up towel to mitigate the pain a little but to no avail.
I was literally going crazy, I started thinking maybe cutting my skin open with a knife might bring some relief.
In the end, at about 7am I just lay down with a bunch of cooling packs on the affected areas - finally feel asleep.
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Avatar_m_tn
Well Hello, my hells itch started this morning after my shower. I skipped my exams because it is soo outrageous. As a type I can feel it coming back and i feel like i want to cry. All that works is a shower. A long hot shower. Ut works for an hour then it comes back. It is now startiing to drive me crazy I am going to go cry in a corner. please . please someone tell me how long it lasts... Im dying please.
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Avatar_m_tn
I mowed the lawn shirtless 3 days ago (its a big yard, 2.5 hours to mow on a riding lawn mower), despite my wife's advice to put sun screen on. I wanted a little color. and I got some it was just the color RED. 2 days past with the normal discomfort of a sun burn, which was easily tolerable for me. then, the next morning about 7 am (at work) IT started. uncontrollable twitching, and wincing (trying not to yell out as it would come on) the craziest itch ive ever experienced. I was going nuts. I went in the bathroom and thinking my shirt was causing it, took it off and it wasn't. I finally looked it up online and found people calling it "Hell's Itch". for me it would "flare up" and its the closest I felt to actually going insane. some how I made it all day at work (not accomplishing much, and I wasn't going to go home early, I commute to work an hour 1 way so once im there im staying) I got home just before 5pm and my wife globed this Vitamin E/Aloe Vera "cooling" gel on my back (where it was the worst) more than anything I think the cooling sensation just distracted me from the itch. and then some benidryl extra strength anti itching gel  it only lasted maybe 10 minutes of relief. I went to bed at 10pm (I mega dosed some ibuprohpin, thinking it would help with the inflammation) this is when I became the worst. violently twitching (scaring/waking my wife as she would dose off). my last hope was to put some head phones in and try and meditate to some zen music and tune everything else out. I was tossing and turn for 2 more hours. I was about to get up and take a bath at 12:30 at night but I finally became more exhausted than itchy and fell asleep. now im here this morning still very itchy (not nearly as insane as the day before) my wife said shes had this before and she just ran around the house kind of going crazy and she new what I was going through. she kept telling me you just got to wait it out, it will be better tomorrow and it is BETTER, not gone. best advice, take an antihistamine (Benadryl, if you can (I cant, it knocks me out for days) and sleep through the worst of it and drink a lot of water
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Avatar_m_tn
Well I'm just getting over this for the second time having it, I have numerous other health problems such as chronic sinusitis and chronic migraines and have grown up with health things so I've come to know medicine pretty well. The first time i got it was last Memorial day when I was on vacation in L.A. me and my parents thought it was just a bad sunburn so we tried every topical possible from the store and of course that just made it worse so we went to the ER where I was given pain medications. However, since this is a type of neuropathy still not yet known, so no pain medication can touch it even the Dilauded and morphine i was on. And let it be known I was in the world famous Cedar Sinai hospital and they had absolutely know clue what it was so we definitely have something that's extremely rare. So I was writhing in pain by then for about 12 hours to the point where suicide seemed like the best way out of it because it was so excruciating until thankfully we found out that cold calms it. So I'd have to lay on cold packs 24/7 and once they'd warm up my parents would have to change them out immediately or it'd come back. For 2 and a half days it was like that until i started actually feeling the cold from the ice packs and my mom realized that it may be that I'm actually getting feeling back in my back so i got up walked around, it came back a little but then went away and sure enough my back went back to normal. Now its a year later on this Memorial day and I got it once again, this time I actually found this site and a couple others, I tried peppermint oil which helped for a little bit and hydroxine which didn't really seem to help at all. Laying on ice packs 24/7 is the only 100% CURE for this disease appropriately known as "hell's itch".
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Avatar_m_tn
For a simpler post for everyone if you don't want to read my whole story above.
HOW TO SOOTHE IT- lay on ice 24/7.
HOW TO SLEEP- take Zzzqyil and Benadryl to try and sleep.
HOW LONG DOES IT LAST- Both times it lasted approximately 72 hours for me.
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Avatar_n_tn
Just happened to me for the second time, last time was 20 years ago. Wow!! My wife thought I was nuts and although she didn't say anything, she told me later she thought I was being a wimp! She then found this site and read some of the descriptions and believes me now! At the time, we tried Hydrocortisone I use for dermatitis (i have a dry skin condition, rash on my face sometimes, which is probably related to this issue somehow). No help, hot shower was temporary relief. Vaseline did the trick, although there was a panic combo of a shot of Jack Daniels, guzzling 2 beers and moisturizer concentrate for our hot tub. yea it got a little nutty!! And my poor daughter witnessed the whole thing, even my dog looked concerned! Actually now that i think of it, I got more sympathy from my dog then my wife! Glad to know anti histamines seem to work. And of course... not getting a sunburn in the first place! This summer I will be very careful so I never feel that again, terrible.  
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Avatar_m_tn
I got the Hell's itch for the first time in my life today. It was without a doubt the worst pain that I have ever experienced. I was in a car accident once, where my nose was split open and it had to be sewn together without anaesthesia, I didn't make a whimper or sound at that time, but Hell's Itch made me scream and curse in pain, I felt like I was going insane.

My girlfriend rubbed ice on my burnt areas, which numbed the pain momentarily. Enough for me to try and find a cure online. One site suggested spraying vinegar on the itchy places every 4 hours. I was afraid it would make the pain worse, because everything else seemed to, but I was willing to try anything. The itching got worse for like 3-4 minutes, and then it dissapeared. I was so relieved. I spray vinegar on every 2-3 hours now and it keeps the itching down to a minimum. Also AVOID trying to cool the itching with draft or air-conditioning, it makes it flare up much more!

If you haven't tried it you can not imagine the pain and discomfort, and I hope anyone reading this never has to experience it.

I gathered all the tips I found online, here are the things that most people say works and doesn't work:

Works:
1) Very hot showers. I didn't try this, but most agree that it works. It has to be as hot as you can bear for as long as you can bear it. Numbs the pain for 3-4 hours.

2) Put vinegar in a spray-can and apply on your body. It worked for me. If you think the smell would be annoying, you most definately never tried Hells Itch.

3) Peppermint Oil smeared on your body - said to work wonders, I wouldn't know where to buy it though.

Doesn't work:
4) Any kind of cream, aloe vera and so on - only makes it worse.

5) Cold showers/ice - will numb you momentarily and afterwards the pain will get worse.

6) Cooling with airconditioning draft - makes the pain flare up even more, can even trigger the itching in my experience.

7) Scratching - makes it worse.
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Avatar_m_tn
I just recovered from the itch. I got a nothing sunburnt a few days ago and 2 days later the itch started. I've had many worse burns before and I normally tan easily but this was new. like a thousands insects stings every seconds, you can't do anything but scream and slap your back like you've gone mad . no marks on my skin either, my wife tried everything she could think of but nothing helped. Then we noticed this cream for insect stings with hydrocortizone in it and it almost instantly reduced the pain to manageable level and after 30 mins it was gone. best feeling ever. I'm not going anywhere sunny without that stuff !
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Avatar_m_tn
I just recovered from the itch. I got a nothing sunburnt a few days ago and 2 days later the itch started. I've had many worse burns before and I normally tan easily but this was new. like a thousands insects stings every seconds, you can't do anything but scream and slap your back like you've gone mad . no marks on my skin either, my wife tried everything she could think of but nothing helped. Then we noticed this cream for insect stings with hydrocortizone in it and it almost instantly reduced the pain to manageable level and after 30 mins it was gone. best feeling ever. I'm not going anywhere sunny without that stuff !
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Avatar_m_tn
Another testimonial here, and perhaps another solution.  I just had what you guys are calling "hell itch" for the first time this week, and I'd put the pain on the same level as the kidney stone I passed several years ago and with the pain I experienced when I threw my back out several years ago as well and couldn't move.  I've heard many women say that the pain of this itch is worse than childbirth.  Like a former commenter said, it's like a thousand knives being plunged into your skin or, as I described it to my fiance, like being attacked by a thousand wasps.  My itch came on about 48 hrs after a particularly bad sunburn over my entire back.  I've had bad sunburns before (back when I was a kid), but never had an itch like this before.  Perhaps not coincidentally, I had also gotten stung by two wasps at the same time (I was doing yardwork).  I tried the peppermint oil after my fiance saw people recommending it online (there was no way that I could've even surfed the web during the itch--I was literally standing in the shower with ice cold water on my back just to get me to the point where I was just moaning and stomping my feet in pain).  The peppermint oil worked okay.  But what really seemed to help me was CALAMINE LOTION.  I'd recommend that others give it a try.  I had my fiance just keep rubbing it in for about 20 minutes as the itch slowly subsided.  Also, Benedril seems to have helped.  And I wonder if the itch itself could've been caused by some sort of allergic reaction or the histamine produced as a result of the sunburn and the wasp stings together.  Anyway, hope that helps others diagnose and possibly treat their own itch.  
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Avatar_m_tn
Guys/ladies, trust me on this.. I have tried it many times already after getting the itch over 10 times (I'm 25 living in Dubai, it reaches above 48celsius in summer):
Ps: thank you Meganfchris

Take a pill of ATARAX the same day you get exposed to the sun.
Do NOT shower much; I'm not a Dermatologist but from my experience it seems like the more you are exposed to water, lotions, oils after the sunburn the faster the itch gets on you. Take the pill once a day and you may not feel the itch at all. Also, if you're crazy enough and still want to keep the tan I suggest you don't take a shower the first 48 hours.

I tried lotions, oils, calamine, etc. nothing worked for me. Cold and hot showers calmed me down for 5 minutes and the itch came back even worse.

Try the pills, I hope this works for you
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Avatar_f_tn
This is my third bought with this particular impairment.  It *****.  I have found that the severity of the sunburn doesn't seem to be a factor in whether this happens or not.  I only get it for sunburns on my back, but I've read about others who get it on their chest, neck, whatever.  It does not happen to everyone, maybe not even to a large percentage of people, so invariably you get bad advice since people seem to equate their normal sunburn experiences with this problem, and it is NOT the same.  A couple of things I know to be true:

Do not try lotions or ointments or whatever.  They will make it worse.  Trust me.  

Do use normal OTC pain relievers.  Ibuprofen and acetaminophen help, if only a little.

If you are up to it, for me the hottest shower I can bear for a few minutes seemed to help for a longer period of time than a cold shower, and the itch did not come back instantly like with the cold shower.  Beware that this is pretty painful on a sunburn, but for me it's way better than the itching.  Be careful not rub when you are drying, but make sure to dry off the area.

I found a topical anesthetic that works - dermaplast.  Your mileage may vary, but this slowed the itch for me.  It's a spray and goes on super cold, which may be more helpful than the anesthetic.

The only other topical thing that didn't make it worse was hydrocortisone, but you really need to check the inactive ingredients because some of the OTC brands have all sorts of stuff that make the itch worse.  The less inactive ingredients the better.  Make sure to slather it on, vs. rub it in.  Rubbing is a really bad idea.

My wife is a doctor, and she had all sorts of anti-histamine remedies that do not work.  This is not a histamine itch.

Leaving it open to air makes it worse.  Don't know why, but a shirt is imperative to keeping it calm once you get there.

Nothing works 100%.  You're looking for little things that give you whatever relief you can get.  Since you'll have this for a few days and you can't make it go away completely...you need to remember not to scratch the itch.  It's the hardest thing in the world, but if you start scratching or rubbing you're done for.
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Avatar_f_tn
HELLS ITCH IS TERRIBLE BUT THE ONLY THING TO HELP IS VERY HOT NEAR BOILING SHOWER FOR 15 MINUTES THEN TO GET THE HARD TO REACH PLACES USE A HAIR DRYER ON HIGH FOR 10 MINUTES MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON YOUR SOUL AND GOOD LUCK
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Avatar_m_tn
I had the worst sunburn of my life two Fridays ago.  It was about three days before I was done being "burnt" and about a week and a half to finish peeling.  But what happened after the peeling is what's brought me to here and many other forums regarding "Hell's Itch."

I've found that A&D (diaper rash) cream works after it's been applied after a scolding hot shower.  I bought calamine lotion, per one comment in another post somewhere on the internet, and I would have purchased peppermint oil, per a pharmacist's suggestion, but was unable to find any at the grocery store.

What's most concerning is I'm going on day 5 now of Hell's Itch and it doesn't really seem to be getting any better.  The aforementioned pharmacist did not know what I was referring to, and googled "Hell's Itch" when I asked her what would help with a really deep, intense burning itch following the typical healing of a sunburn.  I feel like noone knows what it is, and just thinks I'm peeling and aloe will work.

THIS IS NOT A TYPICAL SUNBURN HEALING PROCESS.  I've never taken 2.5 weeks to heal from a sun burn.  And none of the posts I've read say that it has lasted as long as I'm experiencing.  24 hours, or 2 days.  Nope, 5 days, and this is already 2.5 weeks after I burned.  Oi.

Idk what my doctor can do, but I'm def going to try to get an appt tomorrow as I have plans all later this week that I don't want this debilitating condition to interfere with.  Ugh.
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Avatar_m_tn
I have suffered from this and am currently suffering from it.

Amazing that the first poster described it "two days" after sunburn, because that's exactly where I am.

I think the best description to give people who do not understand is this:  It feels like an itch.  But when you scratch it the itch does not go away.  Instead putting any pressure on that "itchy spot" makes it feel like you yourself are pricking your skin with a needle.

I am lucky this go 'round that it is minor compared to the first and only other time I remember having it.  Then, I was brought to tears (as an 18 year old young man) in front of my entire family from the emotional wear-and-tear of the torture of it never going to stop, etc.

It's definitely different than the regular tearing away of peeling skin itch.
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Avatar_m_tn
Fellow Hell's Itch Club Members:

I have experienced this life threatening single most frustrating and irritating pain ever for the 4th time currently.  I always seem to experience it on my back, but this time, I have it on my stomach and the bikini line/upper leg/hip area and side.  THE WORST. As most of you have already described, it is absolutely unbearable. But after having tried so many remedies that didn't work the last 3 times around, I decided with my 4th sever burn (and knowing Hell's itch was just 48 hours away) I did my research.  This is what worked for me:

1. Scolding hot shower on the burn area.  This also allowed me to gently wash my hair (i flipped my head upside down so the shampoo wouldnt get on my sun burns) which was starting to smell since I got the sun burn on a Saturday and hadn't taken a shower until now, Tuesday.  The shower instantly felt like the hand of God scratching deep under the tissue and relieving me.  AMAZING.  I was terrified the water would make it worse, as I did the oatmeal bath years ago and it made it all the more worse. So stepping out of the shower after 10 min, and patting myself lightly with a soft towel, I was super worried for the sharp intense pain to come back.  However, it managed to keep at bay long enough for me to do step 2.

2. Apply 100% pure peppermint oil all over the effected area.  I applied with a cotton ball, dapping the areas. At first I didn't notice anything besides the strong smell, burning my nostrils.   But after about 3 minutes, I could start to feel the amazing burn/cold numbing sensation, similar to what you get when you apply Vicks to a sore nose.  IT'S AMAZING! The relief is instant.  I felt so good.  I got the big bottle from GNC for 30 dollars, but it's worth every penny.  
*I did notice that after about an hour, the numbing effects went down and the itchiness started to linger again, so I applied more.  I assume one could repeat this pattern several times to see if that method works.

3. Apply soft cotton clothing, no underwear, no bra, nothing tight.

I still take the benadryl and pain medicine (not sure if it works though, feels more like a placebo effect).  At night I take tyenol PM to knock myself out, or NYQUIL whatever works for you.  Anything to help sleep, it seems the itch is at its worse at night or whenever you are not up and moving around.  Sitting at work today for 8 hours, and then the hour train ride commute to and from, was the worst ever! I was twitching like a madman during meetings and couldn't focus.  I tried explaining to my co-workers and finally just gave up.  No one gets it until they experience it.

Things I have tried in the past that didn't work:
1. Calamine lotion (made it worse)
2. Aloe Vera (aggrivated it and brought it on faster, I think)
3. oatmeal bath (i think it dried me out, maybe I sat in there too long or luke warm water wasn't what was needed)
4. Coritzone spray (this stuff DOES do wonders to severe sun burn while it is in the hot burn stage, but irritates the itching later on.)
5. Regular lotions/benadryl lotions/anti itch sprays (nothing worked for me, probably spent over 50 bucks in pervious years trying every brand at the drug store that said "anti-itch"

On a side note, Gold Bond anti-itch powder (in a green bottle) worked for my the last time I had Hell's Itch.  It wasn't as effective as the peppermint I feel, as it only cancelled out the itch pain for about 30 seconds and then it was right back at it.  It does a good job of numbing, but not for long enough.  The smell isn't as potent as peppermint oil, though.

Good luck but seriously try the hot shower/peppermint oil combo! A great relief and numbing sensation needed to combat the hell that is, Hell's Itch.
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Avatar_m_tn
All--

I just wanted to say a big thank you for all of the posts above.  In my entire life, I've always been a quiet reader of online forum advice.  But going through what I know you all understand has given me some clarity in my life and I feel the need to share the wealth that you've now shared with me.  I giggled, guffawed, and shed a tear for every comment I read on here.  That catharsis is all that got me through this hellish existence.  And in all my life, if it ever comes back, this forum is where I will come to be with my people and laugh in our common misery.

Thank you all and good luck.
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Avatar_m_tn
I received a sunburn about 2 days ago while having my first swim of the summer and I figured I wouldn't bother with sunsceen since I'd only be out there for a couple of hours. I got home and found that my upper back and shoulders were pink with a fresh sunburn. By far not the worst sunburn I've had. I should also make mention of the fact that I have a ver fair complexion. Dangerously close to not having a soul, although I'm not ginger.

Fast forward about 48 hours.

I got home from work, having delt with the general discomfort of the sunburn all day and applied a hearty dose of aloe vera gel with lidocaine to the burn. It did exactly what I expected it to do, cooling me down and slightly numbing it. A couple of hours went by and I was sitting on my couch watching TV when the burn started to itch.

I've delt with post-burn itch before, so it wasn't entirely unexpected. I decided to apply another dose of the aloe gel. Literally minutes after putting it on, the itch intensified. I thought, "This is odd, what the hell is going on?" The itch continued to get worse as the minutes progressed.

Fast forward 15 minutes.

I find myself curled up in the fetal position, screaming into a pillow so I don't get a knock on the door from police due to a domestic violence call. The pain is indescribable to those who haven't experienced it. Mind you, I can deal with some physical pain. I'm no Marine or anything, but I'm no wimp.

I felt like I'd gone mad. For the next hour (which seemed to last an eternity) I contemplated cutting myself to distract my pain receptors, drinking myself into a stupor (I'm a recoving addict/alcoholic with 3 years clean, if that's any indication of how bad this was), and even thoughts of suicide crossed my mind. Cutting my skin off with a knife seemed preferable. I felt like a swarm of fire ants wielding sandpaper knives with the personal blessing of Satan himself was scouring my back.

In between boughts I managed to search online for anyone who had experienced this before. APPLYING MORE ALOE DID NOT WORK. COLD SHOWERS DID NOT WORK.

The general consensus was that boiling hot showers were the way to go. So I then proceeded to take the most painful shower of my life, as I was ready to try anything at this point. The itch subsided for while after that. It didn't go away completely, but I didn't want to tear my eyes out anymore.

I laid in bed for about an hour or so, and it started to come back. Again, not quite as intense as it was prior to the shower, but enough to make we want to take another one. After that, uttering foxhole prayers the like of which I'd never said before, I applied an average dose of lotion to the burned area. I assumed that moisturizing the skin would help, since dry skin only makes itching worse. I then set up a fan next to my bed and laid with my back facing it, letting the fan and the lotion keep my back cool. I repeated this about 3 times when it started to flare up again and it seemed to work better than anything else I'd tried.

This is not to say that this is the end-all-be-all solution to this problem, as everyone I've read about who has experienced this seems to react differently to different methods of treatment. But this is what worked for me.

I pray that you don't have the same experience as I did. I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy.

Lesson learned: WEAR SUNSCREEN.
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Avatar_m_tn
This is my first time experiencing what I can now call "Hell Itch." As you all know, it is by far the most uncomfortable experience in the history of like EVER. I'm a nurse that works night shift so it hit me almost immediately after I woke up from sleeping all day and I quickly turned into some sort of rabid animal running around my house, ripping off my shirt, and screeming for it to stop. My poor fiance could do nothing but just stand there in awe of my reaction and ask me if I needed some sort of excorsism. Once I jumped into the shower and regained my ability to speak in actual words, I yelled at him to run to the store and get hydrocortisone. This cream took FOREVER to give me only the smallest bit of relief. I couldn't bring myself to call out of work because I had itchy sunburn so I hopped in the shower minutes before I had to leave and lathered on a generous layer of hydrocortisone only to find myself in excruciating discomfort about 30minutes into my shift. Out of desperation I made myself an ice pack from the kitchen and shoved it into the back of my bra to find that it WORKED MIRACLES. Instant relief FINALLY. So as I write this post, a little over 3 hours into my shift, I'm on my 5th ice pack and comfortably going about my work while the ice does its magical numbing powers. Hopefully this doesn't last too long into tomorrow. I want to be able to sleep well before my next shift! Moral of the story folks- if you're in a pinch and can't get peppermint oil, ice packs are a little slice of heaven in the firey pit of Hell Itch.
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jemma116
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