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Itching

Pruritus

Itching is a tingling or irritation of the skin that makes you want to scratch the affected area. Itching may occur all over the body or only in one location.

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Causes

There are many causes of itching, including:

Generalized itching may be caused by:

Home Care

For itching that does not go away or is severe, see your health care provider.

In the meantime, you can take steps to help deal with the itch:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if you have itching that:

Also call if you have other, unexplained symptoms.

With most itching, you do not need to see a health care provider. Look for an obvious cause of itching at home.

It is sometimes easy for a parent to find the cause of a child's itching. Looking closely at the skin will help you identify any bites, stings, rashes, dry skin, or irritation. Often the cause of itching is clear, such as a mosquito bite.

Have the itching checked out as soon as possible if it keeps returning and does not have a clear cause, you have itching all over your body, or you have hives that keep returning. Unexplained itching may be a symptom of a disease that could be serious.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your health care provider will examine you. Your provider will also ask about your itching. Questions may include when it began, how long it has lasted, and whether you have it all the time or only at certain times. You may also be asked about medicines you take, whether you have allergies, or if you have been ill recently.

Related Information

Insect bites and stings
Contact dermatitis
Sunburn
Hives
Body lice
Head lice
Pubic lice
Chickenpox
Allergic reactions

References

Chen SC. Pruritus. Dermatol Clin. 2012;30:309-21. PMID: 22284145 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22284145.

James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM. Pruritus and neurocutaneous dermatoses. In: James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 4.

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Review Date: 8/17/2014  

Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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