An itchy bottom – also called an itchy anus or pruritus ani – is an intense itch around the area where poo leaves the body (the anus), which doesn’t seem to go away.
Read on to find out what might be causing an itchy bottom for you or your child, what treatment options are available and when to speak to a doctor.
What is an itchy bottom?
Having an itchy bottom is a symptom rather than a condition itself. It can happen because of lots of different things, such as poor or obsessive hygiene, being too hot and sweating a lot, or because of an infection.
The list of possible causes can sometimes make it difficult to find the real problem, but there are many treatment options available to help reduce itching and irritation.
What are the symptoms of an itchy bottom?
You’ll know you have an itchy bottom if you can’t help but scratch the area around your anus. While this can happen at any time, people usually find it gets worse after going to the toilet, or at night.
What causes an itchy bottom in adults?
There are many things that can make your bottom itchy – some can be dealt with immediately, while others might need treatment after speaking to a doctor.
The main causes of an itchy bottom include:
- any skin conditions you have, such as dermatitis, eczema, lichen sclerosus, lichen planus and psoriasis, which can make the skin around your bottom more sensitive
- the type of foods you’re eating and what you’re drinking, such as spices and chilli peppers, citrus fruits, grapes and tomatoes, lots of beer and milk, or tea coffee and cola
- the type of soap or shower gel you’re using on your body, which can irritate the skin
- any related infections you have – this could be thrush or sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like herpes
- being very hot and sweating a lot or not drying yourself properly, which can lead to a build up of more moisture around your anus
- waxing burns, shaving injuries and injuries due to insertion of foreign bodies
- some conditions that affect your entire body, such as anaemia, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), jaundice, leukemia and lymphoma
- medicines and treatments including peppermint oil (sometimes used for stomach cramps), steroids, or chemotherapy, for example
- washing the area around your bottom too much or not enough
- incontinence or diarrhoea, which can make it difficult to control when you go to the toilet, leading to a build-up of moisture and bacteria around your anus
- anal or rectal disorders, including piles (haemorrhoids), anal fistulas and anal fissures
- threadworms (or pinworms) can be passed on to adults from children when eggs are transferred from the fingers to the mouth or on to surfaces and clothes and then to the mouth
- a lack of oestrogen as a result of menopause may trigger skin conditions that cause anal itching
What causes an itchy bottom in children?
If your child hasn't been wiping thoroughly after going to the toilet (most likely when they're very young), that area might become itchy. But if this doesn’t seem to be the problem, there could be another cause at play.
The main causes of an itchy bottom in children include:
- threadworms – these are very small worms in your poo that look a bit like tiny white threads. They’re very common in children because they spread easily in nurseries and schools, and usually cause more itching at night
- wearing clothing that’s been cleaned with a specific detergent or washing powder – this can make your child’s skin more sensitive in certain areas
- eating foods that are spicy or sour – this includes chilli peppers and orange juice
- a yeast infection – this usually causes a bright red rash in your child’s groin area which can be very inflamed
- diarrhoea – this can increase the build up of moisture and bacteria around your child’s anus
- a perianal strep infection – it can be caught by your child if a member of the family has had strep throat. You’ll often see a red rash around your child’s anus, a fever or blood in their poo
- wearing clothes that are too tight – this can sometimes cause chafing
When to see a doctor
It’s quite common to have an itchy bottom and, often, it’s nothing to worry about. But sometimes, the symptoms can be a sign of something more serious.
Speak to a doctor as soon as possible if your itchy bottom:
- does not get better after 3 or 4 days
- keeps coming back
- is worrying you, or makes it hard for you or your child to sleep
- happens at the same time as feeling itchy in other areas of your body as the itching could be caused by a dermatological condition like eczema or psoriasis
You should also speak to your doctor as soon as you can if you have:
- pus draining from the anus or around it – this is known as a draining fistula
- bulging piles (haemorrhoids), which are often painful
- blood in your poo, especially if this is bloody diarrhoea
- darker or thicker skin or a new rash around your anus
- lumps that develop around your anus
It’s best to go to the emergency department if you have symptoms around your bottom and a fever, feel very unwell, or notice a lot of blood or pus from your anus.
Treating an itchy bottom
If a specific condition or cause is found, your doctor or a pharmacist might recommend treating your itchy bottom with one of the following:
- antibiotics – these can help clear up certain infections
- a steroid cream – this is often given if you have eczema around your anus
- specific medicines, such as those used to treat threadworms
- antifungal creams – these can help with fungal infections and thrush
Your health questions answered
What helps an itchy bottom
If you’re worried about your itchy bottom, it’s best to speak to a doctor, but you can try a few home remedies and lifestyle changes, too:
- avoid using talcum powder, perfume, bubble baths, salts and scented soaps around your bottom
- cut out certain foods like citrus fruits, chillies and tomatoes to see if this helps
- try cleaning your bottom with water instead of using toilet paper after going to the toilet, and wear cotton underwear to allow your bottom to breathe better
- try to avoid scratching your bottom, which will make the itch worse. You can also cut your fingernails short to avoid damaging your skin even more
What do piles look like?
Piles (haemorrhoids) are swollen blood vessels that appear as lumps inside and around your bottom. They usually get better on their own, but if it’s the first time this has happened to you, it’s best to speak to a doctor. If you notice bleeding after you poo, you have an itchy bottom or you notice slimy mucus in your underwear after wiping your bottom, there’s a chance you have piles.
- there are several cause for an itchy bottom, which is a common complaint and can happen in both adults and children
- you might relieve your symptoms by cutting out certain foods, wearing cotton underwear and washing your anus with water instead of soap
- creams, medicines and antibiotics can help to treat an itchy bottom, if your doctor is sure of the cause
- if you notice any red flag symptoms, such as blood in your poo, bulging piles, or your symptoms don’t get better after a few days, speak to a doctor as soon as possible