Scratching at Night

Updated on May 27, 2010
M.J. asks from O Fallon, MO
6 answers

My 3 y/o son has always been a poor sleeper, needing us to hold him to go back to sleep when he wakes up in the middle of the night (mostly our fault of course, we trained him poorly!). Normally he's up maybe 2 times a night, but this week he's been up probably every hour or so! And the wierd thing on top of that is that he's scratching his forearms, legs, back, and neck, and generally tossing and turning a lot until finally he falls into a deep sleep (until we put him down of course, but that's a separate issue). He's been to an allergist, only mild seasonal allergies, he's taking Allegra and we put hydrocortisone ointment on him really good before bed. I asked him this morning if he was really itchy or if it was just a nervous habit, and he said "habit," but then again, he will usually pick the second of 2 choices, so I don't know how accurate that is. I did call his doctor yesterday but they forgot to get back to me, but I was hoping some of you might have some ideas on what this is and how to stop it? Oh yeah, the other thing the allergist recommended was socks on his hands to prevent scratching, but that didn't work out too good with a 3 y/o! Any help is much appreciated!

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So What Happened?

Thanks for all your ideas! The doctor prescribed some Triaminicolone (sp?) ointment and Benadryl at bedtime, and last night was so much better! I am going to switch to Dreft laundry detergent and Cetaphil for the bad regardless to minimize any reactions from the soaps. Thanks again for all your help!

More Answers



answers from Kansas City on

My kids have problems with sunscreens. My son tends to get eczema on his wrists, elbows, back of neck after sunscreen, particularly if we don't wash it off really well after he's back inside. He'll itch at night and we'll need to get out the hydrocortizone. Food allergies do the same to him. My daughter gets hives and a runny nose from sunscreen. We've had to try a lot of different kinds, none seem great, but some seem less irritating than others. We're on Clinique right now, which is too expensive. Some others that generally work are Aveeno or Neutrogena, though they both irritate at least one of my kids. But, if the itching at night is something new for your son, this could be a consideration, since it is the season for sunscreen.



answers from Burlington on

Hi M.,

I wrote a response to another mother regarding rashes. Your son doesn't seem to have rashes, but the information may be helpful to you. I pasted my response below. Good luck!

My son has a lot of food intolerances. He didn't have any allergies detected by skin test but did respond well to change in diet. Even though he is doing much better (we're using the Paleo diet though he does eat some things that aren't on the diet - probably causing him problems) he still has problems. He had what I thought was eczema. It was really bad and wouldn't go away. Eczema medication would only stop it from progressing, did not get rid of it. I brought him to dermatologist. It's psoriasis and needs a different med. He is also intoerant of chemicals. He reacts to chemicals in pools - nausea and head ache. I clean with vinegar and baking soda in my house. I've changed hygiene products for more natural products. I also recently remembered that a family member of mine reacts to dark dyes in clothing (black) so I'm replacing dark colored clothing with lighter. I don't burn candles or use air fresheners.

Lots of personal care products contain irritating ingredients:


Household products:

Household Alternatives:

You can find a lot more resources online.



answers from Dallas on

Could it be your laundry soap or body soap? My hubby gets itchy if I use a different soaps and the itchiness gets really bad at night, enough to keep me up. And my husband has no allergy issues whatsoever.


answers from Norfolk on

It could be anything. Laundry soap / fabric softener residue (try putting his bedding and clothing through the rinse cycle twice). If you don't have pets, it's not likely to be fleas (and no bite marks eliminates bed bugs, too). Does he have any new bubble bath/soap/shampoo he's using? A soapy residue on his skin could get him itching if he sweats a bit. If he's had any sun burn lately, that would itch. If it were poison ivy/poison sumac/poison oak, he'd have a noticeable rash. Chicken pox would itch, but you'd be able to see the welts and he'd most likely have a moderate fever. Yeast infections cause itches, but usually only in moist sweaty body areas (a little plain yogurt in his bath water would help if you suspected yeast). Could be dry skin. Aveeno has some hypoallergenic fragrance free lotions which might help. Aveeno also has a colloidal oatmeal bath soak which is very soothing to the skin no matter what's making it itch. An itch can be a hard thing to figure out.



answers from Springfield on

I agree with those who suggest that the laundry detergent may be causing his itch. My husband and I both have issues with certain detergents, and our 4 y/o daughter develops contact dermatitis unless her fabrics are washed in a "free/clear" laundry soap. I recently noticed that she develops a terrible rash when we visit my grandmother; I notice it the first morning we are there, and it lasts for 2-3 weeks after we return home. It is because she sleeps on Nonna's sheets; Nonna's detergent is one that irritates our daughter's skin. Try switching to a Dreft/All Baby/Purex Free & Clear detergent, and allow 2-3 weeks for it to improve. According to the resources I've found online, contact dermatitis will resolve naturally within 2-3 weeks of removal from the irritant. However, I do give her benadryl at bedtime to help alleviate the itching and let her rest. I hope that is your issue; it is comparatively easy to remedy and to avoid in the future. Best of luck!



answers from St. Louis on

My son was doing that, too, even though I hadn't switched soaps or anything. I found that if I only use baking soda and vinegar to wash the laundry, the itching stops. He was doing it for months, so he still has scars that are fading, but it's satisfying to know that I found the cause!

Check out this article, especially the last paragraph:

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