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Do babies have itches?

February 3, 2006

With the winter’s bitter cold bearing down, my skin is so dry and rough. It itches too. While trying to figure out how to reach an itch on my left arm while not disturbing the sleeping baby in my arms, I began to wonder. Do babies have itches? I’ve never really seen a baby reach for an itch. Allison has never reached frantically for the middle of her back to relieve that one itch that lies right between her shoulder blades, the one that is just out of your fingertips reach.

In her eight-months of life, she has more than doubled her body weight, why doesn’t she have itchy stretch marks to document her weight gain. I certainly didn’t gain twice my body weight while carrying her (almost but not quite!), yet somehow I ended up with itchy stretch marks.

So where does the impulse to scratch an itch come from? Some brief research on the Internet simply says that itches are uncomfortable sensations on the skin. Itching can be caused by bugs crawling on us, exposure to poison ivy, dry skin and any number of other things. But what I really want to know is how we learned to scratch those itches.

I would guess that things touch Allison’s skin and irritate her, but she doesn’t know to scratch them. I guess she just accepts them and figures that’s just the way things go. So when exactly did the rest of us determine that to stop the annoyance, we need to scratch away?

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