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Itchy neck

Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.

What is an Itchy Neck?

Itchy neck is characterized by an irritating sensation that is accompanied by an unrelenting need to scratch to relieve the irritating and discomforting sensation. Constant scratching however will not always relieve the itchiness and can only aggravate and worsen the condition when skin lesions occur due to persistent scratching.

Pruritus is the medical term for itch which is defined as an irritating and unpleasant sensation accompanied by a desire to scratch to gain relief. The unpleasant sensation of itchiness can be discomforting to some and can be frustrating at times. Severe cases of pruritus can cause depression and anxiety and can even disturb rest and sleep.

The itch can occur anywhere in the body and can instigate in any of the neural itch pathway down to the peripheral nervous system and the skin all the way from the central nervous system. There are two neural itch pathways that have been identified. The first neural itch pathway is through the histamine stimulated pathway by way of mechanically insensitive C fibers while the second pathway is by Cowhage stimulated by way of polymodal C fibers.

Pruritus can begin either in the peripheral nervous system or in the central nervous system and can be triggered by different mechanisms. The itch in the neck can be triggered any of these mechanisms and can originate in any of the pathways. Itchy neck can equally affect both men and women either in a form of dermatitis or eczema and other form of pruritus. It has been found out however that itchiness usually first appear during infancy or in babies in their first year of life.

Itchy neck Symptoms

The symptoms of itchy neck generally start with a localized pruritus in the neck region. The sensation can be irritating and discomforting that can provoke a persistent need to scratch to achieve relief. The local symptoms however may include the following:

  • Redness of the affected skin surrounding the neck.
  • Warmth of the skin in the neck affected by pruritus.
  • Swelling or inflammation can be noted due to persistent scratching that can damage the skin.
  • Skin rash may also occur depending on the cause of the itchiness.
  • Skin flaking may also be noticed especially in itchiness due to dry skin.
  • Pain may also be experienced especially if the itchiness has caused swelling and lesions from constant scratching.

Itchy neck that resulted from other serious medical condition may be associated with symptoms such as:

  • Onset of high fever and chills.
  • Persistent cough
  • Stiffness and pain in the joints.
  • A headache that may become severe.
  • Excessive sweating
  • Sore throat

Itchy neck may also occur along with other symptoms of an existing underlying condition that can be potentially life-threatening and needs an immediate medical attention.

  • Difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath.
  • Onset of high fever and chills.
  • Itchy neck accompanied by swelling of the face, tongue and lips.
  • Constriction in the throat.

Itchy neck Causes

A wide range of causes can be implicated in the onset of itchy neck. Medical conditions and other diseases and disorders can trigger the onset of itchy neck while other factors such as environmental are also being considered triggers of itchy neck.

Itchy neck can occur as an allergic response triggered by contact dermatitis and other forms allergic reactions such as:

  • Use of cosmetics and dye.
  • Use of detergents
  • Industrial chemical such as those use for latex and other rubbers.
  • Exposure to poison ivy or poison oak.
  • Bee stings and other insect bites.
  • Allergic reaction to a specific food.
  • Eczema

Itchy neck may also occur as a result of infection such as:

  • Yeast infection
  • Occurrence of chickenpox
  • Dandruff and scabies

Other causes of itchy neck may include the following:

  • Extreme weather condition.
  • Skin diseases and disorders such as psoriasis.
  • Stress and anxiety.
  • Allergic reaction to certain medication.
  • Pregnancy as attributed to hormonal changes during the process of pregnancy.
  • Dry skin condition.
  • Onset or development of heat rash.

Itchy neck Treatment

The focus in treating itchy neck is for the relief of itchiness to prevent further skin damage that can result in medical complications. The mode of treatment and management is dependent on the cause and the extent or severity of the condition to prevent further itching while applying relief.

Cold application

Cold application can help in relieving itchiness as both the itch and cold sensation as running on the same neural itch pathway. The use of cold compress can shove the itch circuits and reduce itchiness. Cold application can be done with the use of running cold water by washing with it the affected area. A cool bath or shower is another form of cold application that can relieve the itchiness.

Anti Itch Creams

Application of anti-itch creams and lotion can relieve the itchiness and can be used repeatedly or if the itchiness is persistent and terribly discomforting. Anti-itch creams and lotion can be bought over the counter or can be prescribed by a doctor or dermatologist. These creams and lotions can be in the form of calamine, dipenhydramine, menthol, camphor, phenol and pramoxine.


Oral anti-itch medications can also be prescribed by the doctor to help in relieving the pain it not fully treating it. Antihistamine medications are the most prescribed form of treatment although the main work is simply to put the patient in sleep to prevent further scratching that can result to skin damage and other medical complications.

Itchy Neck and No Rash

Itchiness can occur even in the absence of a rash. It is rather difficult to determine the origin of itchiness especially in itchiness without the evident skin rash. This form of itchy neck with no rash can occur and caused by different medical conditions such as:


This is a liver condition that occurs during the later part of pregnancy. It is a liver disease accompanied by a symptom of itchy neck.


Lymphoma is a form of cancer involving the blood. This condition causes body itching including neck itching without the visible rash.

There are other medical conditions that can cause itchy neck even without the skin rash. It is important on the other hand to avoid scratching as much as possible to prevent medical complication and prevent damaging the surface of the skin any further. A consultation with the doctor is beneficial in relieving the itchiness and treating the underlying condition causing the itchy neck.

Itchy Neck Pictures

Pictures collection of itchy neck…

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