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Alternative Names Return to topPruritus
Definition Return to top
Itching is a tingling or irritation of the skin that makes you want to scratch the affected area.
Considerations Return to top
Itching may occur all over the whole body (generalized) or only in one location (localized).
Causes Return to top
There are many causes of itching, including:
Generalized itching may be caused by:
Home Care Return to top
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:
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
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.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit Return to top
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.
References Return to top
Moses S. Pruritus. In: Rakel P, Bope ET, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2008. 60th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders;2008:chap 10.
Morelli JG. Eczematous Disorders. In: Kliegman RM, Jenson HP, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 654.Update Date: 8/22/2008 Updated by: Linda Vorvick, MD, Seattle Site Coordinator, Lecturer, Pathophysiology, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.