itch by tom kidd

An itch is an unpleasant sensation that causes the desire or reflex to scratch. Itching has resisted many attempts to classify it as any one type of sensory experience. It has many similarities to pain and both are unpleasant, but their response patterns are different. Pain creates a withdrawal reflex while itch leads to a scratch reflex. The feeling of itchiness can be caused by a movement of hair or the release of a chemical (histamine) from cells under the skin. Itchiness is regarded as protective, as it helps creatures remove parasites that land on their skin.

Nerve fibers for itch and pain both originate in the skin; however, information for them is conveyed in two distinct systems on the same nerve bundle and tract. Many forms of pain inhibit itch, such as noxious heat, physical rubbing/scratching, noxious chemicals, and electric shock. A variety of over-the-counter and prescription anti-itch drugs are available. Non-chemical remedies include cooling, warming, soft stimulation. Sometimes scratching relieves isolated itches, hence the existence of devices such as the back scratcher. Often, however, scratching can intensify itching and even cause further damage to the skin, dubbed the ‘itch-scratch-itch cycle.’

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