Itching is a tingling or irritation of the skin that makes you want to scratch the affected area. Itching may occur all over the whole body or only in one location.
Itching may occur all over the whole body (generalized) or only in one location (localized).
There are many causes of itching, including:
Generalized itching may be caused by:
For persistent or severe itching, see your health care provider for a diagnosis and treatment instructions.
In the meantime, you can take some steps to help deal with the itch:
Call your doctor or nurse if you have itching and:
Most itching does not require medical evaluation. 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 fairly obvious, such as a mosquito bite.
Have the itching checked out as soon as possible if it keeps returning and does not have an obvious cause, you have total body itching, or you have hives that keep returning. Unexplained itching may be a symptom of a disease that could be serious.
Your doctor or nurse will examine you and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms.
You may be asked the following questions:
Norris DA. Structure and function of the skin. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 443.
Habif TP. Atopic Dermatitis. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 5.
Habif TP. Urticaria and angioedema. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 6.
Habif TP. Infestations and bites. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. St. Louis, Mo: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 15.
Updated 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. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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