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 (generalized) or only in one location (localized).
There are many causes of itching, including:
Click here to see a video about hives.
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 provider if itching:
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 health care provider will take your medical history and do a physical examination.
You may be asked the following questions:
If there is no infection or skin lesion, tests to find the cause may include:
Your health care provider may prescribe medications such as topical corticosteroids, antihistamines, or tranquilizers.
Taylor JS, Zirwas MJ, Sood A. Pruritus. In: Carey WD, ed. Cleveland Clinic: Current Clinical Medicine 2009. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 42.
Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009.
© 2011 University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). All rights reserved.
UMMC is a member of the University of Maryland Medical System,
22 S. Greene Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. TDD: 1-800-735-2258 or 1.866.408.6885