Neck Itch

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What is neck itch?

A neck itch is a tickling, irritating sensation accompanied by the persistent need to scratch your neck. The medical term for itching is pruritus. Redness, swelling, soreness, flaking and scarring may occur in the area of itching. Although scratching may temporarily relieve your symptoms, persistent scratching can worsen itchy rash symptoms and leave the affected skin susceptible to contamination and infection. It is best if you can refrain from scratching and leave the area alone to heal in most cases of itching.

Causes of neck itch are numerous and include insect bites, allergies, infections, and trauma. When wounds are healing they often start to itch, which is a sign of improvement. Chickenpox, an extremely common childhood illness, is accompanied by red, oozing blisters that cause intense itching. Eczema and contact dermatitis are potential causes of neck itch, as are head lice, scabies, and pinworm. Obstructive biliary disease, caused by a blockage of the bile ducts, is condition that causes severe itching. Chronic kidney disease can also cause generalized itching.

Most cases of neck itch are mild and resolve on their own, but your health care provider should evaluate itching that is sudden, severe or unusual. Itching caused by a serious food allergy can come on rapidly with a strong need to scratch. This type of itching may be symptomatic of a serious anaphylactic reaction, which impairs breathing, causes swelling, fainting, and vomiting, and is considered a medical emergency.

Sudden itching can be a sign of anaphylaxis, a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction to a food, chemical, or insect sting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if an itch is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, including swelling of the face, swelling or constriction of the throat, difficulty breathing, fainting, change in level of consciousness or alertness, or rash.

What other symptoms might occur with neck itch?

Neck itch may be accompanied by other symptoms, depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Certain conditions that cause neck itch may also involve other body systems.

Related localized symptoms that may occur along with neck itch

Neck itch may be accompanied by other localized symptoms including:

  • Crusting or flaking skin

  • Painful skin

  • Rash

  • Redness, warmth or swelling

  • Scale formation

  • Tenderness or pain

Other symptoms that may occur along with neck itch

Neck itch may accompany symptoms related to other body systems including:

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

In some cases, neck itch may be a symptom of a life-threatening condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have neck itch along with other serious symptoms including:

  • Change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness

  • Fever and chills

  • Joint pain and stiffness

  • Respiratory or breathing problems, such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or inability to breathe, labored breathing, wheezing, or choking

  • Sudden swelling of the face, lips or tongue

  • Tightness or constriction in the throat

  • Worsening of symptoms despite treatment

What causes neck itch?

Neck itch may have many possible causes, including allergens (agents that cause allergies), infections, autoimmune disorders, or other causes such as stress.

Allergic causes of neck itch

Neck itch may be caused by contact dermatitis. Common triggers include:

  • Cosmetics, dyes or detergents

  • Industrial chemicals, such as those found in elastic, latex and rubber

  • Metallic substances such as those used in jewelry

  • Poison ivy or oak

Other allergic causes of neck itch include:

  • Atopy

  • Eczema (skin disorder causing scaly or blistering rashes that may be caused by allergy)

  • Food allergies (allergic reactions to certain foods)

  • Insect bite allergy such as a bee sting

Infectious causes of neck itch

Neck itch can also be caused by infections including:

  • Candidiasis (yeast infection)

  • Chickenpox

  • Eczema (skin disorder causing scaly or blistering rashes that may be caused by infection)

  • Head lice

  • Pinworm

  • Scabies

  • Tinea versicolor (dermatophyte infection)

Other causes of neck itch

Neck itch can be caused by other conditions such as:

Parasites, insects and arachnids that cause a neck rash

A neck rash can be due to insects, parasites or arachnids that bite the skin or burrow in the skin including:

  • Bedbugs

  • Fleas

  • Head lice or pubic lice

  • Mites

  • Mosquito bites (mosquitoes also carry parasitic diseases)

  • Ticks

Serious or life-threatening causes of neck itch

In some cases, rash may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. These include:

Questions for diagnosing the cause of neck itch

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your itch including:

  • When did the itching begin?

  • Are you taking any medications?

  • Do you have any known allergies?

  • Do you feel otherwise healthy?

  • Have you tried any new products recently, such as soaps, perfumes or sprays?

  • Do you wear neck jewelry or earrings?

  • Have you spent a lot of time outdoors lately?

  • Does scratching make it better or worse?

What are the potential complications of neck itch?

An itch is not usually serious, but in rare cases, it can be a symptom of a serious condition that may have severe complications. You should contact your health care professional to rule out any serious conditions. Once the underlying cause of your itch is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications, including secondary infections, which may develop from scratching and related skin trauma.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jan 15
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.
  1. Itching. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/itching.html.=
  2. Pruritus. American Academy of Dermatology. http://www.aad.org/search/?k=Pruritus.
  3. Ferri FF (Ed.) Ferri’s Fast Facts in Dermatology. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier, 2011.