An itchy rash can occur on the body and this can be due to the same conditions. However, certain conditions are more likely to arise on specific parts of the body. This may be due to local factors, like contact with fabrics or jewelry, or with spread from neighboring areas. An itchy rash on the neck may therefore be due to skin conditions that can affect any part of the skin on the body or with conditions that are specifically or more likely to affect the skin on the neck.
General Causes of Neck Itch
Some of the conditions that may cause an itchy neck but also an itch (with or without a rash) anywhere on the body includes:
- Staphylococcal folliculitis
- Insect bites or stings
- Allergies to food or medications, cholinergic urticaria
- Herpes zoster (shingles)
- Liver disease with jaundice, kidney disease with uremia and other causes of itchy skin
Itching can also occur with the lack of any clearly identifiable abnormality. It may be seen in mental health conditions like anxiety. Furthermore, nervousness may also cause itching which is psychosomatic in nature and usually temporary.
Infections of the Neck
A number of different types of infections can arise on the neck. These infections are usually not limited to just the neck area. One type of infection that causes an itchy rash is a fungal skin infection. This may be an extension of a fungal infection of the face, which is known as tinea faciei, or fungal infection of the body, known as tinea corporis.
Since the bearded area in men extends to the neck, tinea barbae is another type of fungal infection that can involve the neck. Tinea capitis, a fungal infection of the scalp, may also extend to the back of the neck. Most of these fungal infections are caused by a type of fungus known as dermatophytes. This type of fungi are also referred to as ringworm because it causes a red ring-like lesion on the skin.
However, this typical red ring-like lesion is not always clearly visible. Fungal skin infections cause itching, drying and scaling of the skin. It is usually superficial, not extending beyond the outermost layers of the skin.
Bacterial infections may also occur on the neck particularly if there is a beak in the skin or within the hair follicles, which is known as folliculitis. Viral infections are usually not isolated to the skin but affect other areas as well, as is seen with childhood diseases like chickenpox and sometimes with reactivation of the chickenpox known as shingles.
Allergies and Neck Itch
Some allergic conditions, like atopic dermatitis, have a predilection for the folds of the body such as the neck. Contact dermatitis can affect skin anywhere on the body and arises when a substance comes into contact with the skin of the neck. This substance may be an irritant to the skin or an allergen where it triggers a localized allergic reaction. With the neck specifically, the following instances of allergic contact dermatitis need to be considered.
Allergy to Jewelry and Clothes
Jewelry containing nickel or other metals to which a person may be senstivite to, can trigger an allergic reaction. This typically appears as a red, itchy rash at the points of contact with the jewelry. Substances in first time worn unwashed shirts, scarves or shawls may cause a neck itch with or without rash. Some people may be more sensitive than others, like people with atopic dermatitis tend to react to wool. This is a form of allergic contact dermatitis.
Allergy to Hair Dyes and Cosmetics
First time allergic reaction to hair dye appears several hours after hair coloring, but subsequent exposures may trigger a reaction in few minutes. Skin on the scalp, neck, front, and eyelids may become red, itchy, and severely swollen. Symptoms may last for several hours and usually disappear without consequences. Allergy to perfumes, makeup, aftershave, or shampoos usually appears as red skin with bumpy or patchy hives. Once again, this is a form of allergic contact dermatitis.
Allergy to Food and Medications
Allergies to food or medications typically appear as a swollen face, itchy lips, and itchy hives on the neck and upper trunk, few minutes or several hours after ingestion. In a severe allergy known as anaphylaxis, difficulty breathing, and faintness may accompany the rash. The rash may not be isolated to the neck specifically. Food allergies that trigger or aggravate conditions like atopic dermatitis are more commonly seen in babies and children.
Itch of The Bearded Area in Men
The following conditions primarily affect the bearded area in men and may therefore extend to the neck region.
- Folliculitis barbae is staphylococcal (bacterial) infection of the hair follicles on the bearded area of men. Red bumps with white heads resemble acne vulgaris.
- Pseudofolliculitis, caused by an ingrown hair, is non-infectious inflammation of the hair follicles in men with curly hair. Red bumps without white heads appear several hours to few days after shaving.
- Tinea barbae (barber’s itch) is fungal infection of bearded area in men who work with animals (1). It appears as rounded reddish patches that may reach several centimeters in size. Treatment is with anti-fungal drugs by mouth (1).
Conditions Affecting the Scalp and Neck
The following conditions primarily affect the scalp but may extend to the back of the neck:
- Folliculitis keloidalis is a scar-like skin thickening of the hair border on the back of the neck
- Tinea capitis is fungal infection of the scalp and neck, mainly affecting school-aged children. It appears as scaly, reddish patch on the scalp. Treatment is with anti-fungal drugs by mouth (1).
- Allergy to head lice saliva appears as itchy red bumps on the neck and shoulders.
- Allergic reaction to hair dye is another common cause of an itchy neck and scalp which arises during and after application of problem hair dyes.
- Itchy Face
- Itchy Scalp
- Itchy Arms and Hands
- Causes of Itchy Skin
- Itch (Pruritus) – Diagnosis and Treatment