Itching is a most peculiar and diabolical sensation. The definition offered by the German physician Samuel Hafenreffer in 1660 has yet to be improved upon: An unpleasant sensation that provokes the desire to scratch. Itch has been ranked, by scientific and artistic observers alike, among the most distressing physical sensations one can experience.


Though scratching can provide momentary relief, it often makes the itching worse....You can spend all day without noticing the feel of your shirt collar on your neck, and yet a single stray thread poking out, or a louse’s fine legs brushing by, can set you scratching furiously.

--Atul Gawande, The Itch

This article contains one of the creepiest case studies I've ever read (oh hey, let me spoil it for you. This chick falls asleep and scratches through her skull into her brain). It's also a prime example of superb science writing; after reading it a year ago, I still think of it every time I scratch a mosquito bite. Like now. Because I'm absolutely covered in mosquito bites.

Remember when I wanted to be a science writer? That was cute.

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