December 2, 2022
Pruritus, otherwise known as itchy skin, in the aged is usually a consequence of dry skin. As we grow older, accumulated sun damage begins to take its toll, and so does the reduced secretion of sebum, sweat, and surface lipids, which all contribute to the rapid rate of dry skin among the elderly. Over time, this dryness leads to uncomfortable and constant sensations of itchiness. Sometimes the condition occurs on and off, and if it lasts any longer than six months, it is considered chronic pruritus. That said, here’s a round-up of prevention and management tips from experienced experts across our assisted living communities.
How to prevent pruritus in seniors
Prevention is better than cure, and here’s how the elderly can avoid the trigger factors that may lead them down this alley:
1. Use sunscreen to protect your skin
Sun damage as a result of harsh ultraviolet rays is one of the predisposing factors for pruritus in seniors. If you haven’t been using sunscreen whenever you spend extended periods out during the day, then now’s the time to start.
Sunscreen contains a combination of mineral elements that reduce the amount of radiation from the sun that your skin absorbs. It achieves this by deflecting sun rays off your skin like a mirror.
2. Craft a healthy diet
Do you get enough water? Constant dehydration can be a trigger, so be sure to take water consistently throughout the day. To keep you honest, you should consider setting reminders.
In terms of what foods to eat, our senior community team recommends adding coconut, avocado, and dark leafy greens to your diet as well as foods rich in:
Turmeric is also renowned for its skin nourishment powers.
3. Tone down the temperature
If you have a penchant for taking really hot baths, you may be putting your body at greater risk of pruritus. Hot water constantly takes away the skin’s natural oils, your first layer of protection, and may even cause inflammation that leads to irritation and itchiness.
Instead, try taking lukewarm or even cool baths. Doing so regularly just a couple of times each week can have tremendous results, including stronger hair and better-hydrated skin.
4. Moisturize more
Regularly using a moisturizer throughout the day is a great way to keep your skin hydrated. Our community senior living team particularly recommends strategic moisturizing right after you:
But not all moisturizers are great for you. Some have elements like sodium lauryl sulfate which can have a counter-effect on your skin. Instead prioritize fragrance-free products with healing ingredients like fatty acids, ceramides, and urea.
How to manage pruritus
The cause of your itchiness and its severity has a huge say on how to manage pruritus in seniors but the following seems to work across the board:
1. Corticosteroid ointments and creams
Is your skin red and itchy? In such cases, the best senior care may involve the use of medicated ointment or cream. This application will be specific toward affected areas, which may be covered off by damp cotton to accelerate the medication sipping into your skin.
Alternatively, your doctor may recommend a tweak to your bedtime routine. You may need to consider a 20-minute lukewarm bath leading up to bedtime, followed by the application of your professionally prescribed cream or ointment to keep the moisture in.
2. Avoid your stress triggers
Stress can also be a catalyst for the increased severity of pruritus in seniors over time. When you’re constantly anxious or stressed out, your nervous system can be all over the place, resulting in sensory disruptions that cause skin burning and itchiness.
At Lantern Lifestyle, we provide day trips, massages, and fitness classes to help manage stress levels in our respite care for seniors service. You could take a page out of our book, and also dedicate more time to hobbies and interests that make you happy.
3. Get a good night’s sleep
The National Sleep Foundation finds that not getting enough shuteye can offset your pH levels which can worsen your pruritus, not to mention it can also make your skin less elastic and lead to wrinkles.
7 to 9 hours of sleep should do the trick, and some ways to improve sleep in seniors include:
Exercise can also tire out your body and improve your quality of sleep.
4. Get a humidifier
Your pruritus can also escalate due to dry air in your home caused by your heating system. To balance this off, you may want to consider getting a whole-home humidifier which may just help you ditch the itch.
A humidifier boosts in-door air moisture and is especially ideal during dryer winter months. It chips into reducing your skin’s rate of moisture loss, thus going some way to contain your condition.
5. Avoid scratching
It’s definitely easier said than done, but scratching that itch can lead to more inflammation and could generally make your pruritus worse. If you just can’t help yourself, our assisted living care center experts instead recommend holding a cloth over the affected area and patting it down.
Also, it’s prudent to identify your itch triggers. If you notice you get particularly itchy after using a certain cleaning product, it’s time to ditch that. Triggers could also be anything from a hot room to a wool sweater, and with careful observation, you’ll pick out what sets you off.
Of course, nothing beats getting a professional diagnosis from a doctor. All these pruritus management tips in seniors are great, but a consultation can help you come up with more targeted and personalized solutions depending on your skin profile, among other factors.
How can you be sure you have pruritus and what is the right time to be concerned? Our senior care service experts find that most cases of pruritus go away on their own. But if yours gets in the way of your sleep, has lasted for several weeks, and includes visible skin damage (pus, swellings, discoloration, or fever), then it’s time to consult your physician. For more tips on senior health and well-being, check out our blog.
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