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Itchy Skin? Ask These Questions First

Why is your skin itchy? This dermatological dilemma is annoying, and you shouldn’t have to live with it. Even though there are plenty of OTC treatments, a diagnosis is the first step towards relief. Before you slather on anti-itch cream, take a look at the questions to ask.

Where Is Your Skin Itchy?

Does your skin itch in an isolated spot or do you have an all-over irritation? An isolated itch may indicate a bug bite, localized allergic reaction (to lotion, soap, or other similar product), contact dermatitis, poison ivy, or a patch of eczema. If the itch is only on your scalp, lice or seborrheic dermatitis are possible causes.

General, full-body, itchiness could have an allergic systemic cause. Common causes of systemic allergic reactions include:

  • Food. Some people with food allergies break out in itchy hives, a rash, or have signs of eczema. The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology notes that 90 percent of allergies are caused by eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy.
  • Medications. Medications (oral, topical, or IV) can also cause hives, itchiness, or other full-body skin irritations.
  • Cosmetic/hygiene products. While these typically cause localized irritations, a cosmetic or hygiene product (such as lotion or soap) can cause a systemic reaction.
  • Along with allergic types of irritations, infections can also cause itchiness. These include parasitic, fungal, bacterial, and viral infections.

    When Did the Itchiness Start?

    Not all causes of allergic skin reactions are obvious. The same goes for other causes of itchiness, such as infections or parasites. Think about when the irritation started to determine the possible causes and consider:

    • Food. What did you eat in the hours before the reaction started? If you ate something new or a common allergen (such as shellfish or peanuts), talk to the doctor about the possibility of a food allergy.
    • Water activities. Did you recently swim a pool, at the beach, or in a lake? The chlorine in a pool may cause an itchy irritation. But a post-ocean, lake, or river reaction may come from a parasite or other infection-type cause.
    • Other people. Do you have a communicable infection? Parasitic infections, such as scabies, result in irritation and itch. Likewise, chickenpox, shingles, and strep throat are also examples of infections (the first two are viral, the third is bacterial) that can also cause itchiness.
    • Illnesses and medications. While the illness itself may not have caused the reaction, the medication you took could have. This includes prescription and over the counter medications.
    • Skincare products. Did you recently use a new skincare or hygiene product? This includes soaps, lotions, cosmetics, perfume, cologne, deodorant, sunscreen, and other similar products.

    If the answer to this question doesn’t reveal the source of the itchiness, read on for another option to explore.

    What Does Your Skin Look Like?

    Is your itchy skin red and bumpy? Or do you have dry, scaly patches? The physical appearance of your skin can provide clues and help to determine the cause of your itchiness. Signs to watch for include:

    • Welts. Bumps or welts (single or a few together) may indicate bug bites. But large groups of welts may point to an allergic reaction.
    • Redness. Redness can also indicate an allergic reaction. It may also happen with excessive drying or a sunburn.
    • Flaky skin. Excessively dry skin can flake and cause itchiness. Other dermatological conditions, such as eczema, can also cause flaky skin.
    • Scaly skin. Psoriasis and eczema may also cause scaly skin.

    Along with these signs, an itchy, irregular, bleeding, or cracked mole is a red flag, along with mole discoloration. While moles can itch for many reasons, you should consult a dermatologist as soon as possible for an evaluation.

    Do you need an itchy skin diagnosis? Contact East Carolina Dermatology and Skin Surgery, PLLC for more information.

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