Itching is a tingling or irritation of the skin that makes you want to scratch the area. Itching may occur all over the body or only in one location.
There are many causes of itching, including:
Generalized itching may be caused by:
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:
Call your provider if you have itching that:
Also call if you have other, unexplained symptoms.
With most itching, you do not need to see a 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.
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.
Your provider will examine you. You'll also be asked about the 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.
Dinulos JGH. Urticaria, angioedema, and pruritus. In: Dinulos JGH, ed. Habif's Clinical Dermatology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 6.
Legat FJ, Weisshaar E, Fleischer AB, Bernhard JD, Cropley TG. Pruritus and dysesthesia. In: Bolognia JL, Schaffer JV, Cerroni L, eds. Dermatology. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 6.
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.