Post Operative Itching & Burning


It happens to just about all of us. Within the first two weeks or so of recovery the itching begins and sometimes returns weeks and months later in sporadic bouts.  Burning type pain can often happen, as well. What causes it?

It's often said that itching is a sign of healing, which is not really a complete explanation. Burning sometimes accompanies it, and is generally attributed to nerve regeneration.

Itching, however, is usually a warning sign from our bodies. It is generally benign and can simply mean you need better nutrition to meet your recovery needs, but it can sometimes be an allergic reaction to a pain medication or antibiotic. It can be an adverse reaction to adhesives used in steri strips, bandaging and surgical glue. It can also be a severe and and prolonged reaction to consuming alcohol in any form, including cold medicines all the way to less than an ounce of an alcoholic drink. 

You may need to explore where and when your itching occurs and if it's accompanied by a rash or other flushing of the skin.  Is it worse 30 minutes to an hour after you've taken a pill? Are there other symptoms involved? Are you allergic to adhesive tapes or even the sutures themselves? Don't panic and automatically assume the worst, because it can also be as simple and easily fixed as your nutrition!  You should contact your surgeon if you feel any of your medications or dressings may be contributing to the problem. When in doubt, call your doctor.

We've found itching to be mostly related, however, to your nutritional stores. Increasing fresh greens and lean protien in your diet can resolve this issue almost immediately, including months down the line when if it suddenly crops up again. Check out our Healing Diet and learn how to eat to heal yourself properly and cut down on, if not eliminate, itching. Green smoothies are a particularly fast and easy way to increase your nutrition, but you need to be smart about how they're made, or you'll throw off your blood sugar and cause yourself to have worse nutrition, thus not solving the problem. We can help, so feel free to register to address these issues for itching related to any surgical procedure you're facing. 

As odd as it may sound, itching really can be caused by alcohol consumption -- either as a social drink or in an over-the-counter cough medicine.  Please check with your surgeon about when you can again consume alcohol.  Many times its four to six weeks post op.  If you have been given the green light to consume alcohol and you find yourself having an increase in itching or burning, please let your surgeon know and wait another couple weeks before trying again. Know that alcohol cuts your nutrition even if you don't experience itching, because it thins your blood. You have many weeks ahead of healing, so it's best to eat a healthy diet and hold off on alcohol in the first 4 months or so, depending on the type and magnitude of your surgery. 


Sometimes burning accompanies itching, and they can be part of the same issues described above. Besides eating better and removing other causes, burning, tingling and other sensations can be a part of nerve regeneration, which is a normal part of healing. 

You can try a few of these things to help yourself after you've explored your nutrition and the more serious options above. Please check with your surgeon, however, before trying one of the following, as some of these may be contraindicated in your exact case.  

We have had quite a few members who have tried and had success with these:

*  Cool or warm washcloths on the itching area will usually help soothe your irritated skin. Don't apply any heat to a surgical area without permission.

*  An anti-itch cream or spray can be a quick fix.  Make very sure that your  surgeon approves this one, especially if your incisions have not closed.

*  A hair dryer set on low cool and moved quickly over the itching area can be soothing as well.  Just make sure it's cool air and you keep that dryer moving.

*  Gentle pressure with your fingers or hands on the area (no rubbing) can help with that "itching inside" feeling.  Please be very careful and get your surgeon's OK on this as well.

*  A soft cotton t-shirt under your bra has been found to help with itching as well.

*  Get naked if your surgeon has given you the ok to go without a bra.  Sometimes just having your breasts uncovered will help to relieve the itching.

*  Switch to a different bra. Changing up, even temporarily, can move pressure points and alleviate the situation as well as help relieve soreness. 

Remember that severe itching is a sign of allergic reaction and should be taken seriously. If it's off the charts, all you can think of and you want to tear your skin off there may be a bigger problem at hand. Call your surgeon and get to the bottom of it. Look for spreading rashes, shortness of breath and other signs that aren't part of normal healing.  Don't hesitate to contact your doctor for itching, an allergic reaction can even stop your breathing.

  • Saturday, 16 June 2012