Guide to the Causes of Body Itch
causes of body itch (referred to as pruritis) are difficult to
identify since the symptoms are
often non-specific to any particular trigger. However, where the
itch is located, how it looks and the timing of when it showed up, may
indicate probable causes. Localized skin inflammation, meaning itching
in specific or limited areas of the body, are often
insect-based or caused
by problems such as shingles, plants (poison ivy), or medication.
itching that occurs all over the body, is usually caused by an
allergy, hives, medication or even mites (scabies). Signs of harmless
itching usually occur on the arms, groin or feet."If the itch persists
for several days with no relief, if the itch comes and goes for several
days at a time, or if it is accompanied by other
symptoms such as lesions or rash, be sure to see a Dermatologist for
testing. In cases where the Doctor believes a disease is the underlying
cause then testing will be conducted to check blood sugar (for signs of
diabetes), thyroid function, kidney function and liver function."
Skin symptoms such as itch can either indicate a minor harmless
problem or one that reflects a problem going on inside the body such as
diabetes, liver disease, heart disease or cancer. The key is
diagnosis is to note when the itch began and any other symptoms such as
rash or possible bite marks. Take note of anything that may
come in contact with your skin.
itch itself is caused by a skin sensation transmitted to the surface by
what are called C-fiber nerves. These nerves are triggered by:
immune system via a release of histamine which responds to foreign
substances such as those left behind by an insect bite
- irritants that enter through cracks in the surface of the
Scratching the itch sometimes masks it by replacing one skin sensation
with the heat generated by scratching since the skin can only
experience one sensation at a time. Itch feels good to the person being
itched because the nerves that cause the itch form a channel leading
directly to the brain, possibly releasing pleasure causing endorphins.
General itch across the entire
body is usually caused by an allergy. This could be to food,
medicine that you took such as an antibiotic (common cause), an
allergic reaction to an insect bite, or an allergen that touched your
A skin itch often comes before other symptoms such as skin
rash. For example the disease shingles (adult version of
pox virus) starts with an itch and skin tingling followed by a rash.
accompanied by other symptoms such as rash could indicate the cause.
For example skin itch combined with joint pain and a
rash could indicate Lyme disease.
Body itch and skin reactions such as red
bumps or papules can have many causes. Insect
are often assumed to be the problem, when in fact, they are triggered
by something in the environment or a food allergy. Itch
is further complicated by delays between the trigger and the skin itch
which can range from an immediate reaction to one that occurs days
The location of the problem, appearance of the skin and
any associated symptoms, could provide clues as to the cause as shown
|Location and Symptom:
||Possible Causes of Body Itch
skin itch (all over body)
Allergy - treated by avoiding trigger food.
Chemical (cleaners, detergents)
Old Age (usually over age 70 due to skin moisture loss)
Idiopathic (unknown cause)
Chronic Insect bite allergy
Kidney Disease (caused by toxins that are not removed from the body by
skin - cracks allow irritants to enter causing itch. Treatment involves
the use of a thick moisturizer to trap moisture into the skin.
body itching and skin has a yellow color. Eyes may also have
a yellow color.
due to liver disease, or pancreatic cancer. Caused when bile ducts are
skin itching with enlarged lymph glands above collar, enlarged armpit,
groin and elbow lymph glands,
(white blood cell problem) or Polycythemia (white blood cell
dry skin itch (when under 70 years old) with symptoms such as
constipation, feeling tired, feeling cold when others are warm
of the common causes of body itch in people is low thyroid function.
dry skin itch (over 70 years old)
skin due to low skin moisture causes body itching.
Skin itch after swimming in a lake, pond, stream or river.
itch caused by a flatworm protein. The worms use birds and
snails as a natural host, but will come into contact with humans as
they seek a new host. They cannot survive on people, but will cause a
skin reaction in those that are sensitive to the flatworm protein. The
condition will go away on its own. Itch can be helped with a
natural topical such as Itch
itch under bathing suit or other skin areas after swimming in a pool,
going to a water park or spending time in a hot tub
improperly disinfected pool or hot tub can be contaminated with a germ
that causes a condition called hot
tub rash (also called folliculitis or dermatitis).
The rash will heal in several days on its own.
Relief can come from products formulated for itch relief such
as the product mentioned above.
Itch (feminine itch)
women can get vagina itch due to high levels of sugar in the urine. If
this is the case the blood sugar will need to be controlled.
Other causes of feminine
include a yeast infection (most common) , itch due to irritating
chemicals such as a detergent, sprays or soaps, and STDs
(sexually transmitted disease -
chlamydia). If itch persists for longer than 7 days, see a
Itching, Anal Itching
or ass itch is a common problem. This is caused by
hemorrhoids or other skin issue such as inflammation from excessive
wiping, removing skin oils. Inflammation can be reduced with
prescription medication Proctofoam HC.
Hemorrhoids are often
accompanied by symptoms such as feeling a lump when wiping or blood.
Treatment for hemorrhoids includes topical
ointments suppositories, creams or removal.
(in specific area (s) of the body
bite allergy - everyone reacts to insect bites differently, from no
reaction to a reactions that are on specific parts of the body.
Contact Dermatitis - skin reaction or hypersensitivity that occurs 2 or
more days after coming in contact with the trigger. Often caused by
rubber, nickel and the antibacterial neomycin. Also caused by allergens
in cosmetics, dyes and soap.
Irritant Contact Dermatitis - this is caused by an immediate skin
reaction to a chemicals.
- certain plants that come into contact with the skin can cause a rash
and itch such as poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac.
Symptoms include skin bumps and itch.
Folds (waist itch, ankles itch, knee itch)
- attach to clothing and bite where clothing is pulled close
to the body
Itch, bottom of legs, lower arm/hands itch
Bugs - bite exposed skin areas during sleep. Bed bug bites can be
individual or in patterns. Bites have a clear center.
(causes all conditions).
Common causes of scalp
include frequent washing in hot water, dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis,
psoriasis, dry skin. A yeast killing shampoo such as Nizoral
A-D can help eliminate dandruff and the scalp itch.
Pubic or Jock Itch, Scrotum itch
itch is caused by the same fungus as Athlete's Foot (see
below). it is treated with the anti-fungal Lotrimin
The most common causes of scrotum
include yeast infection (bright red rash on scrotum and possibly penis
tip), allergy, psoriasis, eczema or pubic lice. Jock itch can
cause scrotum itch, but it is less common.
Blade Itch, Bend of Knee itch, Elbow itch, Itch between each finger
Scabies cause skin reactions due to mites burrowing under the skin.
areas with small skin reactions
bites often result in groups or individual small red bite marks.
Foot (fungus Trichophyton). Treated with the product
Lotrimin. If athletes foot returns after treatment, treat
toenails with regular Listerine or Fungoid Tincture.
Insect Based Causes of Body Itch
Insects based causes of body itch are often mistaken for non-insect
based triggers. This is why exterminators and dermatologists always ask
if you have captured an insect that they can review.
An insect bite that causes itch or
some type of skin reaction is actually an allergic reaction.
people that were bitten can react in completely different ways.
This is often the case with bed bugs, where two people
in the same bed can have different reactions. Insect bites
usually go away on their own or with a simple topical
. If insects are in the home, they of course
will need to be removed by an exterminator such as Service
Chiggers jump onto clothing when outdoors. They are a type of
mite who bite at the waist, ankles or where skin
folds. The result is severe itching. Bite is in the form of red
bumps or hives. You may be bitten by a chigger after a walk in the
berry patch, weeds, tall grass or woodland areas. A chiggers rash may
If you suspect chigger bites and one of the causes of body itch wash
all clothes and bedding and clean
your carpets and
Fleas on Humans
Fleas on humans cause itching and small red bumps at the
ankles. It is often caused
by fleas and dogs and cats, who then bring them into the house.
Getting rid of fleas in the house involves washing all linen,
thoroughly vacuuming all rugs and furniture and
the use a home
If you have pets, ask the vet for a flea treatment or use an over the
counter dip such as Dermisil
for pet fleas
. After using the, use a pet flea
preventative such as Frontline for Dogs or Frontline for Cats.
Flea Bites on Lower Legs
is one of the common causes of body itch, particularly in households
Head Lice Symptoms
Humans may play host to three kinds of lice: head, pubic and
body lice. Body lice thrive on human blood. They live in the folds and
seams of clothes. You may catch lice by coming into contact with an
infected person, their clothing, bedding or towels. You will experience
intense itching, red, bumpy skin and locations at the waist or groin
and you may show skin signs of the skin being discolored or becoming
thicker if the lice have
been there a long time.
Lice treatment involves washing clothes in hot water followed by drying
the clothes in hot dryer.
Usually good hygiene is enough to combat lice.
Scabies Skin Itching Symptoms
Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis, also referred to as the Human
itch mite or Scabies itch mite. It’s a very small and nasty,
eight-legged round bodied bug, just barely visible to the eye. These
creatures burrow under the skin and create tunnels to lay eggs. They
leave zigzag blisters under the skin and a red rash and are one of the
causes of body itch a doctor will explore when the skin as raised areas
as shown below.
treatment involves washing everything
you have touched, in particular sheets, towels and clothing. Use the
hottest water possible. Dry on HIGH heat. for other items, like coats
toys, put them in a bag and store them for a week or longer. In terms
of scabies skin treatment, there are effective over the counter
products such as Dermisil
. The same company makes a product that
can address scabies skin itch.
Causes of Body Itch
include the Scabies Mite, which burrows under the skin.
Treatment involves the use of an over the counter topical .
Bed Bugs Skin Itching
bugs are small, oval, non-flying insects with three species that cause
what are known as bed bug bites (actually a skin puncture).
bodies and may be mistaken for ticks or cockroaches. Given
all the recent publicity around this problem, many people falsely
believe that this is one of the possible causes of body itch, when the
insect they found just looks like a bed bug such as a small
beetle or cockroach.
puncturing the skin and then sucking out blood at favorite sites such
as the arms, hands, neck and face (areas exposed during sleep).
They do not bite the bottoms of the feet, if this is the case suspect
scabies as the cause of body itch. Bed bug bites tend to be small,
raised or flat bumps characterized by itching,
swelling and redness. They often bite in a row of three dots along the
seam of a mattress, a typical hiding spot, but
individual bites are possible. Most people show no skin
however those that do have an allergic reaction that can range from
irritation and itch to more chronic cases where the bed bug bites cause
In terms of bed bugs skin itching, symptoms should stop in 3 to 5 days
after the first sign of symptoms. To help with itch, try an oatmeal
based anti-itch topical such as Aveeno or you can buy a specific bed
bug itch remedy
bug infestations require pest-control intervention with sprays, dusts,
and aerosol insecticides. The best approach is to purchase the
combination of products needed in a bed bug kit. You can buy
either an organic bed bug kit or insecticide based bed bug kit.
This guide to getting
rid of bed bugs
can be helpful.
This includes You may
have to discard your mattress and
bed, as deep cleaning may not help. You may also need to fill cracks in
your moldings, walls and floors or use a super powered vacuum on them.
Causes of Body Itch
include the rapidly growing bed bug problem. If you suspect this cause
of itchy skin, check the mattress for brown fecal marks and blood
Ticks as a Cause of Itchy Skin
Ticks have been around for at least 90 million years and there
are over 800 species, but only two transmit diseases to humans - hard
ticks and soft ticks. Hard ticks have a shell on their back. Soft ticks
don’t. These are acquired by a walking outside or from a pet.
In some parts of the United States this is one of the common
causes of body itch.
grab or crawl onto a host and latch on to suck blood. The bacteria they
carry with them is transmitted to the host when the tick is finished
eating. Tick Bites are painless and the bite site is usually itchy,
swollen and red. Some people experience severe pain. Those with
allergies may have severe reactions to tick saliva.
Remove the tick once you locate it by gently tweezing it out
skin. Do not burn it or yank it out, or you may leave the head behind.
Treat the bite with Benadryl compounds. Be on the lookout for
ticks and do a body inspection if you have been outside. Inspect your
pets on a regular basis during tick
Some Environmental Causes of Body Itch
Elements in the environment are causes of body itch when they
come in contact with the skin. These causes of itching skin include:
- Toxic plants (poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac)
- Stinging plants
- Laundry detergents
- Perfumed creams and lotions
- Chemical household cleaners
Plants such as poison ivy, oak and sumac contain Urushiol which can
cause an allergic itchy skin rash. IF you believe that you were
exposed, wash the skin with an anti-bacterial soap. Look for
a natural poison ivy, oak and sumac remedy for itch that contains
alpha-terpinene-4-ol and cineol such as Dermisil
for Poison Ivy
Some Chemical Causes of Body Itch
Chemicals can be one of the causes of body itch. They can
cause skin burns and other skin reactions when ingested.
Types of chemical include:
- Inhaled, ingested or handled toxic chemicals
- Ingestion of chemicals such as MSG
- Inhalation or injection of various drugs
Some Age Based Causes of Body Itch - Dry Skin
Age is one of the simple causes of body itch. As the skin ages it loses
moisture which adds it to the list of causes
of body itch. The commonly occurs in individuals over age 70.
Locations of the body where dry skin itch often occurs are
the arms, bottoms of the legs, and sides of the torso and thigh area.
Treatment involves the use of thick moisturizing creams, reducing the
of time spent in the bath, and a switch to a gentler soap such as
Cetaphil. Itch can be helped with a topical such as the Aveeno
hydrocortisone product mentioned below. Another good choice is Aveeno
Daily Moisturizing Lotion with Oatmeal
The later also works well in people that have skin allergies.
Apply in 3 minutes after stepping out of the shower to lock
most moisture into the skin.
To reduce the chance of dry skin,
try showering in warm, not hot water. To help moisturize the skin with
humidity, step away from the water at the end of your shower, and run
on the hottest temperature to steam the room.
Disease Based Causes of Body Itch
Some disease based causes of body itch
- Fifth disease or erythema infectiosum
- Viral exanthema
Symptoms of Body Itching
If your symptoms involve your whole body, they are referred to as
generalized itching. You will experience a crawling kind of sensation
just under the skin that sets up the urge to scratch in order to get it
You may have some swelling along with the body itch, such as a rash,
fungus involvement, a viral vector or parasitic involvement. Each itch
antagonist will produce its own symptoms, but typically speaking, you
will itch all over and not be able to get real relief.
For localized causes of body itch, or itching in just one of two
locations on your
body, you will experience the same or similar symptoms involved in
generalized itching. There may also be some pain, weeping, redness,
scaling, blistering or shingling, depending on the causes of body itch.
In either case, see your doctor if you are experiencing any of the
above signs or symptoms to get to the bottom of why you are
experiencing itching skin.
Diagnosis of Body Itching
Diagnosis of the causes of body itch often begins with a visual
examination, followed by a physical exam and an in depth set of
questions to help the physician understand a possible reason for the
itchy skin. A Doctor may ask about possible causes of bod
itch such as:
- when the problem began
- when your skin itches
- location of itchy skin
- your thoughts on possible causes
- allergy history
- recent medications taken such as antibiotics
- exposure to pets
- use of soaps
- new, detergents
- dietary changes (particularly shellfish, shrimp and nuts)
- insect exposure (mosquitoes, chiggers, bed bugs, lice)
- use of cosmetics and lotions
- sun exposure
- start of symptoms such as rash
If there does not appear to be an infection or skin lesion of
some sort, then a doctor will explore less common causes of body itch.
Diagnosis can involve a skin biopsy, blood tests or x-rays.
Generally speaking, you would go to the doctor if there seems to be no
reasonable explanation for the itching; if it is severe and doesn’t
stop; if it does not go away despite what you do and if it happens in
conjunction with other, strange symptoms.
Otherwise, you may be able to
figure out the possible causes of body itch on your own by eliminating
Treatment of Body Itch
To address the causes of body itch a Doctor may recommend one or more
of the following approaches:
- Oral Antihistamines can help to bring some relief.
One side effect in a few products is tiredness, so check
package labels if using the product during the day (Kirkland
AllerClear or other products such as Claritin that contain
Loratadine are a good choice for a low cost non-drowsy anti-itch
antihistamine. An alternative are products with Ceterizine,
which is the active ingredient in Zyrtec.)
Do not use Benadryl (diphenhydramine) as the active
ingredient could cause an allergic reaction in some people.
Itch creams and lotions can help to reduce skin inflammation and
itching from problems such as poison ivy. good for
application to small or localized skin areas. (Make sure they contain
phenol, pramoxine, diphenhydramine, and a “caine” derivative, which is
an anesthetic) . When applied to the face do not buy products
that are more than 1% hydrocortisone (a good choice is Aveeno).
A doctor may prescribe an oral corticosteroid for more
severer or widespread skin conditions. Do not use on infants
without the advice of a Doctor due to bloodstream absorption.
- Hydrocortisone creams/lotions (These only help “if” the
responsive to cortisone. Additionally, many are too weak to make much
- Ice packs - ice slows down the c-fibers, the pathway the
body uses to signal an itch.
- Cold showers. Avoid using hot water and do not
bathe for long periods of time. Use a small amount of soap and pat dry.
Some relief may be available with the use of a moisturizing
lotion after bath that is additive free (additives may result in skin
- Facecloths (Interrupts the itch cycle)
- Hot water (Kills the itch temporarily, but it will return
Not highly recommended)
- Natural remedies such as Itch
Dr. for general itching (contains ingredients such
as Vitamin E, aloe and tea tree oil), Anal
Itch Assist and Hive
Away can all help to relieve itching using gentle herbal and
- Motrin IB ibuprofen - an
- Oatmeal based topicals such as Aveeno
10 (hydrocortisone 1%) – anti-inflammatory that
and swelling/redness. Takes longer to work than topical
Spray (benzocaine 20%, menthol .5%) – virtual
for surface itching and pain.
- Mycitracin Ointment (polymyxin B 10,000 IU/g, bacitracin
zinc 500 IU/g,
neomycin sulfate 5 mg/g) – Good to prevent infection.
- Ignore the itch - try distracting yourself with a video
game. There is some scientific basis for this approach.
a location that doesn't each - try itching the opposite area of the
body (e.g; if the itch is on the left arm, itch the right arm). This
approach confuses the brain and may help reduce the desire to itch.
References for Causes of Body Itch:
Plus (National Institutes of Health)
Merck Manual of Medical Information
Causes of Body Itch to Skin Care Health Home Page