Itchy Neck

What Causes An Itchy Neck?

An itchy neck can be a mild nuisance, a persistent source of discomfort, or in rare cases a sign that something is definitely wrong and needs attention. For the most part however, the itching does not last long, may or may not recur, and eventually goes away and is forgotten. In many instances, simply treating the symptom (itching) of whatever is causing the problem is sufficient. Treatment can be anything from wiping the neck with a washcloth dipped in cold water, to application of an anti-itching medicine, usually one containing cortisone.


Folliculitis - When seeking the cause of itchy neck, one thing to take into account is whether any other parts of the body are itching at the same time. Sometimes, the cause of an itchy neck also will affect the scalp, face, or shoulders. If the scalp is itching as well, the cause could be head lice. If you have a beard, and both your neck and chin are itching, the problem may be traced to folliculitis. Folliculitis is an infection of the hair follicles, and if it becomes serious enough, can result in hair loss and scarring. When only the neck is affected, folliculitis is often termed "barber's itch". In this case, the hair follicles on the neck have become infected with the Staphylococcus aureus (Staph) bacteria. You don't have to go to the barber to get this disease. Shaving your beard, the sides or back of your neck, or (for women) the legs, can cause this problem.

Allergic Reaction - Sometimes, relief from an itchy neck can be as simple as switching from a wool scarf to a silk one, or discovering that the itching seems to occur only when a certain necklace is being worn. It's not all that uncommon to get an itch from a ring or a bracelet. It can be that water, soap, or some other agent has been trapped between the jewelry and your skin, resulting in itching and perhaps a rash. The same thing can happen if something is worn around the neck. It may capture some foreign substance that will cause itching, or it may be you are having an allergic reaction to the adornment itself.


Asthma - Itching sometimes is a symptom of asthma, and can affect only one part of the body, be it the palms of the hands, the chest, the neck, or somewhere else. To compound the problem, if you are asthmatic you may find that certain asthma medications can produce side affects which have been known to, among other things, cause an itchy neck. Whether you have asthma or not, many medications can cause side effects, some of which are unpredictable, or just don't seem to make much sense. If your itchy neck problem has just cropped up recently, and you are on a new medication, that medication could be the contributing factor.

Neurodermatitis - Neurodermatitis usually only affects a small area, such as a patch of skin on the wrist, ankle, or the neck. If you have an itchy neck due to neurodermatitis, chances are only one specific area on your neck, and not the entire neck, will itch. The condition tends to come and go, and usually becomes noticeable when you are not active. If a patch of skin has become leathery or scaly, there's a good chance that neurodermatitis is the problem. The itching can often be stopped with an anti itch medication but it may pay to visit a dermatologist for a more permanent solution.

Eczema and Psoriasis - These two common skin disorders can cause an itchy neck, but just as often affect other parts of the body as well. Both are treatable, but a cure can be difficult, especially psoriasis, which is traceable to problems in the immune system. Whereas eczema is confined to the skin, the presence of psoriasis can sometimes be attributed to heart disease and diabetes. While the initial symptoms may be itching, such as an itchy neck, be on the lookout for changes in the skin itself. Dry patches, lesions, inflammation, and scaly skin all should be brought to the attention of a dermatologist.

As a rule of thumb, if the itching is not severe or long lasting, home treatments consisting of anti-itch medication or cool baths may suffice. If you suddenly start coming down with symptoms of an itchy neck, check for changes which might have occurred in your daily routine, be it the food you eat, the shampoo or soap you are using, or the wool scarf you just started wearing. Even stress has been known to be the cause behind a bout of itching. If the itching is intense, and especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms, such as inflammation, a cough, or a general feeling of not being well, see a doctor right away. It is a seldom thing, but an itchy neck has at times been known to signal the presence of a serious disease such as meningitis, or scarlet fever. Hopefully in your case, it's just the scarf.