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
Redness, warmth or swelling
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
Joint pain and stiffness
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:
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)
Eczema (skin disorder causing scaly or blistering rashes that may be caused by infection)
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:
Head lice or pubic lice
Mosquito bites (mosquitoes also carry parasitic diseases)
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:
Chronic renal failure (also called chronic kidney disease)
Obstructive biliary disease (obstruction of the bile ducts)
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?
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.