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Itchy Itchy Itchy

margz35's picture
Posts: 53
Joined: Apr 2011

Hi there:
I am hoping someone can help me out or send me in the right direction?
The underside (palms) of my hands are so itchy! I also seem to develop a sort of itchy rash around 11-12 days after my chemo treatments (T/C) around my neck.
Cortizone is not working - help!!!

mamolady's picture
Posts: 796
Joined: May 2011

It may be an allergic reaction. Talk to your oncologist. Benadryl or benadryl cream may help more if that is the case but talk to your oncologist first. Until then, Aveeno lotion has oatmeal and for my daughter with allergies to everything, that helps soothes the rash.


PS - doesn't itchy palms mean you are coming into money?

margz35's picture
Posts: 53
Joined: Apr 2011

Yes, itchy palms do mean you are coming into money and at the rate I am going I have won lotto!
I have a call into my oncologist's office (2 hours ago) and am awaiting the advice nurses call back. I will pop out and get some Aveeno at lunchtime and hopefully can get Benadryl too. I have seen gals talk about Claritin on the boards but I take Zyrtec for seasonal allergies. I wonder if I can mix the too? Anothe question for the nurse right?
Thanks again for the giggle!

tgf's picture
Posts: 954
Joined: Mar 2009

When I was having my taxol infusions I broke out in the reddest rash on the TOPS of both of my hands. The itching and burning was almost unbearable ... and nothing worked to stop it. I also had a rash on my upper back. My oncologist sent me to a dermatologist who gave me a couple of kinds of creams/salves ... and they cleared things up in just a few days.

Good luck.


margz35's picture
Posts: 53
Joined: Apr 2011

I will mention that when the advice nurse calls. Fortunately it is only the underside of my hands.

VickiSam's picture
Posts: 9085
Joined: Aug 2009

caladryl (poison ivy - pink lotion) I would try that ... I used this for the bottom of my feet when I had blood blisters and Itch's during and after chemo therapy. It worked for me .. and I slather this lotion on every day for months ...

Hoping you find relief - soon. Ugh ..

Strength and Courage,

Vicki Sam

Kylez's picture
Posts: 3765
Joined: May 2009

I've used caladryl before too and it works well. But, talk to your oncologist before you use anything.

Good luck!

Kylez's picture
Posts: 3765
Joined: May 2009

I've used caladryl before too and it works well. But, talk to your oncologist before you use anything.

Good luck!

CypressCynthia's picture
Posts: 4014
Joined: Oct 2009

I am glad that you have called your physician's office because they will know if this is expected or if it is a more serious reaction.

I would not take claritin and zyrtec (nearly the same) without checking with your physician. Antihistamines are usually very safe, but taking zyrtec AND claritin may result in an overdosage.

If it has been 12 hrs or longer, you are probably ok to take benadryl (a shorter acting antihistamine), IF you are going to sleep (don't drive, etc). Do not take benadryl with a decongestant, if you are taking zyrtec-D as that will be too much decongestant. I generally recommend taking an antihistamnine without a decongestant whenever possible as decongestants increase your heart rate and are hard on hearts--something that we don't need on or after chemo.

Also, besides cortisone cream (I really like the ones with aloe) and calamine lotion, I would use a gentle sunscreen if you go out as many of these chemo drugs increase our sensitivity to sunlight. The over-the-counter cortisone creams may not be strong enough and you may need a prescription strength type or oral steroids.

The info below is from ChemoCare:
Skin Reactions


What is a rash?

A rash is a general term for skin reactions, some more specific terms are used to describe what the rash looks like such as:
•Erythematous - redness.
•Macular - small, distinct, flat areas.
•Papular - small raised lesions.
•A macularpapular rash is the most common type of drug-induced skin reaction. These skin reactions usually start on the trunk. The arms and legs are often involved but the face may be spared. The rash is usually bright red in color and the skin may feel hot, burning or itchy. This rash can occur with almost any drug at any time up to two to three weeks after the drug has been given, but are most common within the first 10 days.
•A severe form of this type of rash would be a wide spread, red rash that blends together. Often associated with peeling of the skin, and desquamation (areas of wet or dry open sores). There may be other symptoms such as fever, lymph node enlargement, and loss of appetite.

Hives: raised, itchy, red blotches or wheals which may be pale in the center and red around the outside. This is also a common drug reaction usually occurring within 36 hours of drug exposure. The lesions rarely last for more than 24 hours. However on giving the drug again the skin reactions may develop within minutes.
•Management of hives involves stopping the causative agent and treatment with antihistamines.
•Swelling or edema may also occur with hives as part of an allergic reaction. It is a vascular reaction resulting in an increased ability for fluid in the cells to "leak" into the layers of the skin causing swelling. These skin reactions happen much less often than hives alone. The tongue, lips, or eyelids are generally affected. Swelling of the airways can result in difficulty breathing, closing off of the airway and death. If swelling is happening and any sign of breathing difficulty seek help immediately.

Acne: Some drugs can cause or make acne worse. The lesions in acne like rashes are papular and pus filled but blackheads are usually absent.
•Drugs commonly associated with this type of rash are corticosteroids, androgens (in females), dactinomycin, vinblastin, oral contraceptives.

Psoriasis: Typically described as reddish patches covered with large dry silvery scales.
•Some drugs are associated with psoriasis in persons with no prior history of this skin condition (interferon alfa) or occasionally can worsen pre-existing psoriasis (interferon alfa and interleukin-2).

Purpura: A condition characterized by bleeding under the skin or mucous membranes. This results in the appearance of purplish spots or patches.
•The main cause of these skin reactions is thrombocytopenia (very low platelet count).

Steven-Johnson syndrome (SJS): A very severe, uncommon skin reaction that includes flu-like symptoms (fever, chills, generalized aches, fatigue) and extensive skin reaction with a variety of patterns. Skin reactions may include skin blistering and erosions.
•This syndrome is frequently drug induced.
•A large number of drugs have been implicated as a cause of SJS, most common are penicillins, tetracyclines, sulphonamides and NSAID's (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).
•Drugs that may be responsible for these skin reactions should be stopped immediately.
•Patients are usually hospitalized to receive IV corticosteroids, fluid replacement and antibiotics, if needed.
•Drug rechallenge is never justified.

Things you can do to manage rashes:
•Wear loose non-irritating clothing.
•When bathing use a mild soap with out perfumes.
•When washing and drying the skin gently pat the area instead of rubbing with the towel or washcloth.
•Use sunscreen or protective clothing when out in the sun, even on cloudy days.
•Avoid tanning booths.
•Previous history of skin tanning without damaging burns or skin reactions to sunlight does not indicate that skin will respond the same way while on chemotherapy or radiation.

Drugs that may be prescribed by your doctor:
•Corticosteroid creams
•Calamine lotion for itching
•Antihistamines to treat an allergic response.
•Analgesics (pain medications) if a painful rash is present."

Posts: 1
Joined: Feb 2017

I have ended chemotherapy for about 6 months and have had severe itching on my back, chest, arms, and legs.  I have been to my oncologist, my primary doctor, a dermatologist, an allergist and a neurologist.  No one knows what this is.  I use topical remedies and this helps to get sleep.  Antihistimines do not help.  I do have low platelets.  Any suggestions for help.  David N

Noel's picture
Posts: 3100
Joined: Apr 2009

Benadryl usually helps. Hoping you find something that will!

Posts: 2
Joined: Jun 2011

I just took 12th Taxol Carbo treatment this past Fri. Two weeks off then I start the next treatment which I am dreading

Anyway, re: itching. I was reacting to the anti nausea meds. Turned out i was allergic. You are fortunate it has only bothered your palms. I was literally on the verge of mentally losing it because everywhere, including places that should never ever itch were itching so bad I couldn't sleep. Until it was finally corrected by my Oncology team, I found that yes the Benedryly capsules helped and I used those circular flat cotton pads used to remove makeup, and Ambesol Ultra worked wonders to immediately stop the agony in those delicate places. At first they suggested a yeast infection (which it wasn't)not until I threatened to quit Chemo entirely were the anti nausea meds changed.

Are you ok yet/ if so , what worked for you?

Double Whammy's picture
Double Whammy
Posts: 2803
Joined: Jun 2010

The palm on my right hand turned red the very first time I had Taxotere and Cytoxin. I thought my hand was infected because I had some nicks on my knuckles. I was also running a low grade fever (100) I went to urgent care (it was a weekend) and they treated it as an infection with antibiotics and a burn ointment. I did tell them I was on chemo, but I don't think anyone ever connected all the dots. The next cycle the same thing happened, but a little more intense - both hands. Again treated as an infection with antibiotics and cream. Then my arms lit up and I was red from my knuckles to my sleeve line. When this subsided, the skin peeled. This time I was told it was a skin toxicity from the Taxotere and that it was not uncommon. I also had some foot involvement. My LAST cycle I had a reduced dose of chemo and was on steroids for a longer period of time to prevent this side effect. It didn't. I still got it. But it's now history. I still don't understand it, but I know it was taken seriously by my oncologist who gave me options of not having my last chemo, delaying it, or reducing the dose and getting it on time. I chose the reduced dose (which she said would not impact the efficacy of the poison) and keeping on schedule.

I had no itching, just red.


jendrey's picture
Posts: 377
Joined: Sep 2009

I firmly believe that with the right sadist, itching can be brought to a whole different level of torture.

Unfortunately itching is seldom, if ever, taken seriously by any member of the medical field. Now if you had pain that'd be a topic with 'worthiness' at least that's been my experience. But since I didn't/don't have pain..

I also had extremely severe itching on the lower half of the palms of my hands as well as my instep/arch extending towards the top of each foot.

I really don't think mere words can truly convey just how maddening this type of never-satiated-itching actually is and to top it all off nobody thinks it's anything to bother themselves over; after all it's just an itch. We've all had a random itch on occasion and survived so how bad could it be - surely you must be making it up or dramatizing the situation. This would be a customary response to me about my itching.

I've tried:

Benedryl = Diphenhydramine HC 25mg
(you don't want to take more than 3 of these capsules at a time, ever.)
Atarax = Hydroxyzine HCL (both the 25mg and 50mg)
Allegra = Fexofenadine HCL 180mg
Claritin = Loratidine 10mg
Ativan = Lorazepam 1mg
Tagamet = Cimetidine 400mg
Pepcid = Famotidine 40mg
Prednisone 5mg (no generic?)
Triamcinolone = Triamcinolone Acetide Cream USP, 0.1%
Allergy Cream 2% (<-- actual name!) = Diphenydramine HCI 2%
Mupirocin Ointment, USP 2% (<--this from Loma Linda no less!)

As well as these OTC (over the counter):
Solarcaine spray
Lanacane cream
Neosporin + Pain Relief
Bactine (has Lidocaine HCL 2.5%)
Benadryl (large, bright pink tablets)
Hydrocortizone, et al.
Calamine Lotion
And likely everything else in that section of the store.

I know itch all too well. Not one of these items listed above did much for me. Well, the Benadryl did zonk me and truth be told I didn't itch/scratch nearly as much being since I was unconscious and all. Ditto for the Atarax. As for the Ativan, it has its on peculiar zonki-ness to it.

This itching started about 8 days after my first chemo on my palms and feet. By the end of chemo my whole body itched. It's mostly just my legs that itch still. I finished chemo about 11 months ago. I didn't know that itching could cause bruising. In fact, I had so many bruises that I looked like a domestic abuse victim. Seriously. It was only then that my itching was given a second thought by my drs.

What seems to work lately (for me anyways) is a variation of applying a 'warm compress'. I get in the shower and turn the water on as hot as I can stand it and direct the hot water to the itchy areas for about 20 seconds or so in each spot. It gets worse before it gets better, meaning the itch intensifies while the hot water is running over it.
Ah, but so worth it as this causes the itching to subside for nearly the entire next day.

I wouldn't do this if you have an open wound.

Also, I bought this device called the ItchStopper from Hontech. I really thought this thing was just another gimmick but it's federally approved so I gave it a try. It works, but at first it doesn't seem like it until you realize the itch is actually gone; if that makes any sense.

Hope this helps.

margz35's picture
Posts: 53
Joined: Apr 2011

such a wealth of information - I am so blessed to know you all!!!

So here is where I am at .... on Friday I was prescribed 4 smallish (hardly worth it) tubes of trian.... something cream with a 0.5% steroid in it. Useless!
I slathered my complete body for 2 days and the tubes were gone.
On Saturday I called the on-call doctor who told me to get Benadryl - which I did and it was semi-ok. I did not get drowsy from it which was good.
On Sunday I could not walk - my arches itched and ached and from my bra line to my undies line was all red and itchy and I looked like I had measles. HELL ON EARTH!!!!!
I then purchase some Aveeno for Excema sufferers and dead lord what a life saver and a cheap one at that. Still no relief and my 3rd chemo is this Friday. I see my onco tomorrow at 3pm so I am really interested in what he says. I am so so exhausted..

Thank you so much for all your advice, hints and tips and I will update you tomorrow ....

CypressCynthia's picture
Posts: 4014
Joined: Oct 2009

Praying you get relief soon! Please keep us posted Margz. Your info may help others.

DebbyM's picture
Posts: 3293
Joined: Oct 2009

I've always used benadryl or cortizone.

jendrey's picture
Posts: 377
Joined: Sep 2009

Hi - was wondering how your last chemo went; has the itching subsided any? =)

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