What Is an Itchy Neck, and How Is It Treated?

Medically Reviewed By Avi Varma, MD, MPH, AAHIVS, FAAFP
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An itchy neck is one type of skin itch that usually makes you want to scratch. Typically, an itchy neck is easily treatable. There are many possible causes of an itchy neck, from skin conditions to allergic reactions. Generally, an itchy neck is easily treatable. However, it can also be a symptom of a more serious underlying condition.

This article discusses itchy neck, including what causes it, how to treat it, and whether or not it is preventable.

What is an itchy neck?

Woman touching her neck
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An itchy neck is characterized by a tickling sensation accompanied by the persistent need to scratch your neck. The medical term for itchy skin is “pruritus.”

Although scratching may temporarily relieve your symptoms, persistent scratching can worsen itchy symptoms and leave the affected skin susceptible to infection. For this reason, it is best to refrain from scratching. Instead, try gently tapping or patting the area to relieve the itch without scratching it.

The causes of an itchy neck are numerous and include insect bites, allergies, infections, skin conditions, and other underlying conditions.

Most itchy neck cases are mild and tend to resolve on their own or with at-home treatments. However, your doctor should evaluate itching that is sudden, severe, or unusual.

You should also contact your doctor if the itch begins to affect your daily life, appears with a lump or rash, or is all over your body. These could be symptoms of a more serious condition.

What causes an itchy neck?

An itchy neck has many possible causes, including allergies and skin reactions, skin conditions, parasites and insects, infections, and other conditions.

Allergies and skin reactions

An itchy neck is sometimes due to an allergen, environmental factor, or irritant.

These include:

  • certain cosmetic ingredients
  • rubber, including latex
  • metals, such as nickel or cobalt
  • textiles
  • plants
  • foods
  • certain medications
  • heat rash
  • sunburn

Skin conditions

Certain skin conditions can also cause itching, including an itchy neck.

These include:

  • Eczema: This is characterized by dry, flaky, and itchy skin.
  • Urticaria: This condition is also known as hives, welts, or nettle rash. It is typically due to an allergic reaction, and it causes a raised, itchy rash.
  • Psoriasis: This is a skin condition that causes red, itchy, flaky, and crusty patches of skin that are typically covered with silvery scales.
  • Contact dermatitis: This refers to inflammation of the skin due to contact with an irritant or allergen.
  • Dandruff: This is a common condition that causes white or gray flakes of dead skin to appear on the scalp or in the hair.
  • Prurigo: These are small blisters that are very itchy.
  • Folliculitis: This is a condition that develops due to inflamed hair follicles.
  • Lichen planus: This is an itchy rash with an unknown cause.

Another possible cause of an itchy neck is simply dry skin.

Infections

Another possible cause of an itchy neck is an infection, including:

If you have COVID-19, you could develop a rash. However, it is also possible to have COVID-19 and not see any kind of rash.

If you do experience a rash, it could appear anywhere on your body and include these symptoms:

  • patchiness
  • bumps
  • blisters similar to those of chickenpox
  • round, pinpoint spots
  • a lace-like pattern
  • flat spots and raised bumps that join together

If you have a rash and have tested positive for COVID-19, contact your doctor.

Parasites and insects

An itchy neck can also be due to certain types of parasites or insects.

These include:

  • bedbugs
  • fleas
  • head lice
  • mites known as Sarcoptes scabiei
  • mosquitos
  • ticks
  • wasps or bees

Other causes of an itchy neck

An itchy neck can also result from other conditions and circumstances, such as:

How do doctors diagnose an itchy neck?

To diagnose an itchy neck, your doctor will most likely conduct a visual exam of the area.

They will also ask you questions about your health history and the onset of your itchy symptoms. They may also want to run extra tests in order to rule out or diagnose any underlying conditions.

When should you contact a doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you are suddenly very itchy, but there is no rash.

You should also contact your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • swelling of the lips or tongue
  • difficulty breathing
  • itchy symptoms that keep coming back
  • fever
  • poor sleep
  • a rash that is bleeding, has scabs, or has pus
  • severe, sudden itching while pregnant

How do doctors treat an itchy neck?

If your doctor determines that there is an underlying condition causing your itchy neck, they will treat that condition as needed.

At-home options for general itching include:

  • using hypoallergenic moisturizers
  • applying a cold compress to the itchy area
  • using over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream or antihistamines
  • changing your bathing habits
  • avoiding scratching
  • avoiding irritating fabrics
  • avoiding high heat and humidity

Learn how to develop an effective skin care routine for sensitive skin here.

How can you prevent an itchy neck?

There are a few ways to prevent an itchy neck if it is not due to any underlying conditions.

These include:

  • using a moisturizer after a shower or bath while your skin is still damp
  • only taking quick showers and making sure the water is not too hot
  • staying well hydrated
  • using a humidifier in dry weather
  • using mild soap or a non-soap cleanser

Learn about some popular cosmetic skin treatments here.

What are the potential complications of an itchy neck?

An itchy neck is not usually serious. In rare cases, however, it can be a symptom of a serious condition that may lead to severe complications.

It is common to find that when you scratch an itch, it becomes itchier. This can lead you into a cycle of itching and scratching. This cycle is sometimes painful, and it can lead to infections if the skin breaks. Scratching can also cause marks, lumps, bruising, or scarring on your skin.

Summary

An itchy neck is one type of skin itch. There are many possible causes of an itchy neck, including insect bites, allergies, and skin conditions.

An itchy neck is often preventable with certain lifestyle habits, such as staying hydrated and using a moisturizer.

If you have persistent symptoms of an itchy neck that do not go away with at-home treatments, contact your doctor.

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Medical Reviewer: Avi Varma, MD, MPH, AAHIVS, FAAFP
Last Review Date: 2022 Mar 21
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.