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.
Looking for a Doctor?
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.
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- Itching. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/itching.html.=
- Pruritus. American Academy of Dermatology. http://www.aad.org/search/?k=Pruritus.
- Ferri FF (Ed.) Ferri’s Fast Facts in Dermatology. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier, 2011.