Hell’s Itch is a Nightmare!

Douglas Clark
-Head writer, The Inspiration Engine


I thought I’d share a little story with you considering I just got another sunburn despite my best efforts with sunscreen.

Okay, so for most of you, the term Hell’s Itch doesn’t mean a damned thing. For others, they nod their head silently and recall all too well the most agonizing pain they ever experienced.

I’ll explain.

When people get sunburned it hurts, then it itches a little, the skin starts to peel, it looks freaky and then heals and life goes on its merry way. But for a very select few of us, it’s not that simple. See after we get a sunburn, and it hurts, it starts to itch a little, then a little more, then a lot more, and then… we are dragged down a path of nightmarishly agonizing skin torture that is absolutely hellish in every way.

Have you ever had an itch and deliberately didn’t scratch it to see if it would go away? It didn’t right. You had to scratch it after it got to be unbearable. Then the ordeal was over. Well, with Hell’s Itch no amount of itching will make the irritation go away. Scratching in fact makes it worse, but it’s so agonizing attempting to avoid scratching the itch it’s unavoidable. So you get caught in an ever increasing cycle of painful itching that you must scratch only to make the itching worse.

And it is absolutely agonizing…

I’ve been the sufferer of Hell’s Itch three times. And the worst part of it is, the sunburn preceding it doesn’t have to be that bad. But the itching gets worse and worse until you lay spasming on the floor in convulsive twitching and shaking because absolutely no amount of scratching alleviates the itch.

When it first happened to me, I did get a bad sunburn. The first day was typical, but after I took a shower, all hell broke loose. The itching mounted, got worse, became deeper, more pronounced, then intense. I started to get anxious. What is happening to me? I screamed. Then the fear mixes with anxiety, plus the relentless itching. I grabbed a bottle of Aloe Vera skin cream and slathered it all over my back right on my sunburn. I could say it was like throwing gasoline on a fire, but to be honest, it was more like igniting a nuclear bomb on a mushroom cloud. Holy HELL. I literally fell to the floor crying and screaming. The intensity of the itching reached down to my soul.

Others have said it was the worst pain they ever experienced and I completely agree.

Quickly I hit the shower scrubbed with a loofa. It hurt but surprisingly the pain of racking a coarse loofa over burnt skin was easier to deal with than the hellishly unrelenting itching. I turned the water to warm because I hate cold showers and surprisingly the heat also helped.

After getting out of the shower, the itching returned almost in full force. I contemplated the ER but resigned myself to CVS to get some kind of skin cream. There I wandered the aisles, body shaking, spasming, scrapping my back against any surface that could provide an edge to stop the itch even for a nanosecond until I found a bottle of Banana boat after sunburn itch cream. Sadly, I cannot remember the name of their product and their website had nothing about it. (Side note: others have said that A&D ointment, or diaper cream works wonders. Vitamin A and Vitamin D are good for healing skin). Anyway, I bought the bottle ran home. Picking a test patch of burned skin I applied some and waited. Within a minute the itching subsided. So I poured copious amounts of the cream on my back. Instantly I found some relief.

I tried to lay down but ten minutes later the itch returned. So again I lathered on more cream. Again the itch relented, momentarily. So every ten minutes for the next three hours I glopped on a layer of this miracle cream until finally the last application. Ten minutes when by and still no Hell’s Itch. It was irritated and itchy but not debilitating. Then 15, then 20 minutes, a half hour went by and the agony did not return. I finally fell asleep. Two hours later I woke up and started to feel the all too horrifying effects of the itch mounting another tearful-causing floor-sprawling crying fest for me. Quickly I applied more cream and beat the skin irritating demon back down to hell.

I followed that pattern for the entire morning. Eventually the itch became manageable. Within a day, the Hell’s Itch succumbed to my exorcism and remained in the bowels of Hade’s basement. But the horror of my experience remained.

I’ve since learned that antihistamines like Benadryl and Advil Cold and Sinus also help to beat back the itching beast. Others recommend Peppermint Oil although I’ve never tried that one. So I’ve put together an emergency aid list of things to do if you ever have the horrid experience of suffering from Hell’s Itch.

What to do:
1. Take a hot, hot shower – The pain is easier to deal with than the itch.
2. Drink LOOOOOOOTs of water.
3. Take an antihistamine, then take some more (Don’t overdose though).
4. Get yourself some A&D ointment, Peppermint Oil, (DO NOT use Aloe Vera) and lather on as much as you can repeatedly.
5. A pillow to scream into.

Hopefully if you have someone to help you the process might be easier. And for fuck’s sake, start using sunscreen and stay out of the sun much as possible.



Good luck.


Thanks for reading. 

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