written by: Finn Orfano
• edited by: BStone
• updated: 1/18/2011
Rectal itch OTC medication can help to ease discomfort caused by skin infections, hemorrhoids, anal fissures, and related issues. These medications include hydrocortisone creams, zinc oxide creams and suppositories, and oral antihistamines. Each of these medications has benefits and side effects.
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Choosing an OTC Medication
A rectal itch OTC medication is used to soothe dry, inflamed, or irritated skin in the area of the anal canal. These medications, which are convenient to use as they do not require a prescription from a physician, work to treat rectal itching that occurs as a result of abrasions, hemorrhoids, yeast infections, chemical irritants or incontinence. The types of anal itch preparations that are accessible over the counter may contain active ingredients such as hydrocortisone, zinc oxide or antihistamines.
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OTC Hydrocortisone Creams
A number of OTC hydrocortisone creams, including the following, are commonly used in the treatment of rectal and anal itch:
Cortizone-10 (hydrocortisone with aloe) is a topical corticosteroid cream designed to alleviate rectal itching, swelling, and redness within approximately one week's time. The cream is easy to apply and effective in small amounts. Possible side effects of Cortizone-10 include dry skin, peeling or cracked skin, and a rash. Rare but severe side effects include rectal bleeding, breathing difficulties, and swelling in the face.
Preparation H Anti-Itch Cream (hydrocortisone rectal) is commonly used to treat anal itching that develops as a result of hemorrhoids. Also available in ointment and suppository form, this topical anti-itch cream acts as an anti-inflammatory agent that relieves discomfort caused by itching and swelling in the rectal area. Preparation H may cause mild side effects such as acne, sweating, and body hair growth or more severe side effects such as muscle weakness, stomach pain, sudden weight gain, and seizures.
Cortaid (hydrocortisone topical) is applied directly to itchy skin around the rectum and is used to reduce inflammation and redness. The side effects associated with this steroid cream range from peeling, stretch marks, and blisters to more serious complications (irregular heartbeat, blurred vision, insomnia, weight gain, and fatigue).
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OTC Zinc Oxide Preparations
Zinc oxide creams and suppositories primarily serve as skin protectants while rectal itch symptoms are being treated. Some OTC brands of zinc oxide medications are described as follows:
Desitin is a cream that treats itching symptoms caused by diaper rash or skin irritants. Safe for people of all ages, Desitin forms a protective barrier between the affected skin near the anus and the chemical irritants that produce the itching sensation. Side effects are uncommon, but in the event of a zinc oxide allergy, people who use this cream may break out in hives, experience chest tightening, and become swollen in the face.
Boudreaux Butt Paste is another topical zinc oxide cream that works to protect and soothe itchy skin. This cleverly-named product can be liberally applied as needed to the rectal area. As is the case with Desitin, Boudreaux Butt Paste may produce troublesome side effects in those who are allergic to zinc oxide.
Calmol-4 Suppository is a preparation that is inserted into the rectum to relieve itching and discomfort due to strained bowel movements or hemorrhoids. This type of zinc oxide medication should not be used by people with an allergy and should not be used for a prolonged period of time (more than seven days).
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OTC Oral Antihistamines
In addition to topical medications, over-the-counter oral antihistamines can reduce itching in the rectal area. These two brands of antihistamine formulas are typically easy to find:
Chlor-Trimeton (chlorpheniramine maleate) and Benadryl (diphenhydramine hydrochloride) are taken by mouth and are dosed according to either a person's weight (Benadryl) or a person's age (Chlor-Trimeton). These oral preparations are recommended over topical antihistamines as there is less risk of toxicity or overdose. Side effects include drowsiness, upset stomach, blurred vision, and dry mouth.
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Over-the-counter preparations that treat anal irritation and itching should only be applied as directed by the product label. The use of rectal itch OTC medication can be supplemented with natural remedies for hemorrhoids and inflammation such as a sitz bath or a cold compress. Anal itching that is persistent or severe in nature can be treated with prescription-strength topical steroid creams or prescribed antihistamines. People who experience prolonged rectal itch symptoms should contact a medical professional for diagnostic testing.