Many women will experience itchy nipples at some point in their lives. There are many factors that contribute to itchy nipples. Many of its causes are not serious, but it is also important not to ignore the symptoms.
Itchy nipples can be due to hormonal changes, increased breast milk flow, and breast expansion. Pregnancy-related itchy nipples can be treated as follows:
- Chemical-free lotion - This includes cocoa butter, vitamin E, or lanolin. The skin can also be moisturized by applying additional petroleum jelly throughout the day. After showering, apply chemical-free lotion to the nipples. You can apply it in the morning and evening.
- Mild fragrance-free detergents - Harsh chemicals are prevented from reaching the skin by using these kinds of products.
- Suitable bra - A well-fitting bra will allow good airflow to the breast instead of wearing tight ones. The risk of having itchy nipples can also be reduced.
Dermatitis is the general term used for skin inflammation. It includes eczema, allergic dermatitis, and other types of skin irritation. Dermatitis also causes itchy nipples. Dermatitis-related nipple itching can be treated in the following ways:
- Avoid anything that worsens skin reactions
- Do not scratch the affected area to avoid aggravating the condition
- Use a moisturizer to keep the skin hydrated
- Use topical steroids and other prescription medications as recommended by the doctor
- Use antihistamines as prescribed by the doctor
- When infection develops, antibiotics are needed
Itchy nipples can also be due to thrush. Itchy nipples caused by yeast can be treated as follows:
- Women can use topical antifungal creams, which are applied to the nipple. Antifungal medications are also available in tablet or liquid form. They can also reduce inflammation and breast pain. Pain relievers may also be recommended by doctors to ease breast pain.
- Change breast pads throughout the day or as recommended by your doctor.
- Wash towels, bras, clothes, and nursing pads using hot and soapy water. If possible, air dry these items outside.
- Sterilize all pumping equipment and pacifiers in boiling water for at least five minutes.
Candida causes thrush, which can sometimes be difficult to treat. Take or apply the medication as instructed by the doctor. The duration of treatment will be determined by the level of infection. Prescription and over-the-counter medications can help treat itchy nipples.
To improve the condition, you should also take precautions. Use nursing pads to avoiding spreading the infection. These pads will prevent the nipples from touching your clothes. Yeast loves warm and moist conditions. After breastfeeding, allow your nipples to air dry instead of immediately putting your bra back on.
Certain activities can cause the nipples to get irritated. Jogger's nipple occurs due to the constant rubbing of your shirt on the nipples. This condition can cause sore and painful nipples. Jogger's nipple can be treated in the following ways:
- Stop doing the activity that causes the condition. In this way, you can further prevent nipple chafing.
- Use antiseptic creams.
- Loose-fitting shirts should be avoided. Wear a soft bra that does not have a seam line or a sports bra, wear a compression vest, or a shirt that is made of soft fabric.
- Before starting any activity, cover the nipples with a waterproof adhesive bandage.
- Before any activity, apply a topical barrier ointment, including an anti-chafing balm.
Itchy nipples could also indicate other serious conditions such as extramammary Paget's disease (EMPD). Moreover, breast tumor may also be present in the affected breast. This condition is common in women but also occurs in men, too. Other than itchy nipples, other symptoms may also be experienced.
Surgery may be required to remove the affected areola, nipple, or full breast. However, it still depends on the severity of the condition. To see if the cancer has spread, lymph nodes may also be removed. Treatment may include certain hormonal therapies or chemotherapy.
If you notice any abnormal symptoms, see a doctor immediately for proper evaluation and treatment.
Natural Treatment for Itchy Nipples
Itchy nipples can be due to various reasons. Nipple pain and irritation are often experienced by women who breastfeed. The following are natural remedies for itchy and irritated nipples.
1. Organic raw coconut oil
Coconut oil is made of fatty acid chains, and unlike polyunsaturated fat, they cannot be easily broken down. It means that no free radical damage is caused by coconut oil. Evidence suggests that the application and consumption of coconut oil are beneficial. When applied topically, it gives great relief for itchy nipples and helps in balancing the hormones. It also helps people infected with thrush.
Coconut oil possesses antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. It also gives a therapeutic treatment that helps soften the skin. Apply a small amount of coconut oil to itchy nipples as required.
2. Fresh aloe vera
Since ancient times, the healing power of aloe vera has been embraced. It is used to combat fungal infections, various skin conditions, infections, and many other ailments. The minerals present in aloe vera are iron, magnesium, copper, calcium, chromium, phosphorus, potassium, manganese, zinc, and sodium. It also contains 12 vitamins, 8 amino acids, and many different enzymes.
For relief, apply a fresh gel of aloe vera to the itchy nipple as needed. Immediate relief can be obtained by the cooling nature of this gel. Do not use commercially available aloe vera gels since they contain an array of chemicals that can harm the skin.
3. Raw apple cider vinegar
It possesses antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties that make it effective against many ailments and skin conditions such as eczema and thrush. Mix five cups of filtered water and one cup of apple cider vinegar. Use a clean cloth and dip it in the mixture. Use it to wash the affected area to prevent the infection from spreading. It also helps relieve the infection.
Itchy Nipples During Pregnancy
To get some relief from itchy nipples during pregnancy, there are some few tricks that expectant mothers can do. Throughout your pregnancy, practice the following tips in your daily routine. It will help keep your skin healthy and supple.
- Use a good lotion - Use a lotion that consists of aloe vera, vitamin E, lanolin, and cocoa butter. See to it that the lotion does not contain any fragrance or alcohol. Always check the product's list of ingredients before purchasing.
- Use a moisturizer at the right time - Right after you come out of the shower or bath, use a moisturizer. This will ensure that the moisture from the water is locked inside the skin. To keep your nipples and skin well hydrated, use a moisturizer before getting dressed in the morning and before going to bed.
- Use petroleum jelly - Applying petroleum jelly to your nipples can add extra moisture to keep the skin soft. You can also massage your nipples using petroleum jelly few times a day to help reduce itching and keep the moisture retained in the skin.
- Harsh soaps, perfumes, and detergents should be avoided - Your skin may become sensitive to strong scented soaps, perfumes or detergents, especially during pregnancy. To help reduce itchy nipples during pregnancy, use fragrance-free detergents to wash your clothes and stay away from perfumes and scented lotions.
- Avoid wearing tight bras - The nipples may get irritated due to an ill-fitting or tight bra. Wearing tight bras may further cause nipple itching because of trapped sweat. Look for a bra that can be both used in pregnancy and nursing.
The following may also be prescribed by the physician:
- Stronger topical corticosteroids for a few days if there is no evidence of infection.
- Antifungal creams if there are signs of a yeast infection. If the baby is breastfed, then the baby will also be treated.
- Topical or oral antibiotics for bacterial infections.
- A skin biopsy may be recommended if the doctor suspects Paget’s disease.
For non-breastfeeding mothers, the following self-care guidelines can be helpful:
- Wash the nipples only with water and avoid using soap to the affected area.
- Use a mild detergent when doing laundry. Remove irritating soap residues by doing a double rinse.
- For pain relief, take over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
- Apply 5 percent hydrocortisone to the affected area twice daily to prevent friction from the clothes.
- Moisten the affected area with tap water if you feel uncomfortable, and then apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly.
For breastfeeding women:
- After nursing the baby, clean your nipples using a soft cloth moistened with warm water. Use nipple creams before nursing or as needed.
- If the baby is unable to properly latch or if there is a problem with the baby's positioning, then seek help from a breast counselor.
- Use only plain lukewarm water to wash your nipples. Soap can make your skin dry, especially if you have sensitive skin.
- Wear a comfortable nursing bra.
- Do a self examination of your breast and ensure to undergo mammography every year.
Visit a dermatologist if the itching still persists. A dermatologist will help properly diagnose and treat your condition.
Things to Avoid
- Placing warm tea bags to the nipples
- Drying the breast using a blow dryer
- Using topical agents such as Bag Balm
- Using a nipple shield
Seek medical help if you do not see any improvements after using natural remedies and self-care measures. If there is fever, breast pain, and redness, seek immediate medical help. You should also visit your baby's pediatrician if you notice white patches (thrush) on your baby's mouth.