Why Is My Chest Itchy?

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An itchy sensation, also known as pruritus, is defined as a feeling of uncomfortable tingling on the skin's surface.

The tingling sensation is often relieved when the area is scratched. Scratching an itch can bring relief; however, too much scratching can also cause damage to the overlying skin. An itch over the chest area can have many potential causes, from dry skin to bug bites.

While chest itching is not an emergency,  if you notice severe symptoms—such as difficulty breathing or chest pain—you should seek urgent medical care as these symptoms can be severe. In this article, learn about the potential symptoms, causes, and treatments available for an itchy chest.

itchy chest

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Besides itch, common symptoms of an itchy upper torso are changes around the skin where the itch sensation occurs that include:

  • Redness in the skin 
  • Rash or dryness on the skin 
  • Discoloration (brown, black, or blue) of the skin
  • Raised patches or plaques on the skin
  • Hives or blisters
  • Hair loss 


There are several potential causes of itching, ranging from irritation and dryness to allergic reactions and infections.

The most common causes of an itchy chest are detailed below.

Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions can frequently cause itching and rashes on the skin.

There are many potential triggers for an allergic reaction that can cause chest itching. These range from laundry detergents to fabrics to shampoos to bodywash. If you feel that you are having an allergic reaction, seek medical assistance as soon as possible to determine the cause. 

Dry Skin and Rash

Extremely dry skin that is damaged can cause discomfort and itching. In some cases, the skin can form a rash in which the skin becomes discolored.

There are many causes of rashes; some of the more common are sunburns and contact dermatitis, which is the result of the skin coming into contact with a material that irritates it.

If you become sunburned on the chest or have recently had other damage to the surface of the skin, your skin can become dry and uncomfortable. Ensuring the skin is healthy and well-moisturized with creams or aloe vera can help reduce dryness and the sensation of itching.


A viral infection known as shingles—or herpes zoster—is a common cause of itching on the chest, particularly if you are older than 50 years old.

The rash and itchiness with shingles are extremely uncomfortable and sometimes painful. Shingles is caused by the reactivation of the chicken pox (varicella-zoster) virus.

As you get older you are at higher risk of developing shingles, even if you have been previously vaccinated or infected with herpes zoster. As a result, vaccines such as the Shingrix vaccine (herpes-zoster vaccine) are used to prevent the development of shingles.

Insect Bites

Insect bites from mosquitos, fleas, ticks, ants and even spiders can all lead to an itchy sensation on the chest. The most common bites are from mosquitos and ticks, particularly if you have been outdoors for extended periods of time.

The itchiness and inflammation from an insect bite will usually go away after a few days, though severe cases may require treatment.


Psoriasis is a skin condition that can cause itchy raised surfaces on the skin. Psoriasis most commonly affects the surfaces of the hands, elbows, and feet but can also affect the chest.

The skin becomes inflamed and irritated with psoriasis, leading to an itchy sensation. Specific treatments are required for psoriasis to limit the itching and reduce the size of the affected surfaces.


Infections of the skin can commonly cause rashes and raised surfaces on the skin to develop. The most common infections are fungal infections that can lead to itching and burning sensations on the surface of the skin. Additionally, if you have had recent surgery—such as open heart surgery, lung surgery, or any procedure near the chest—then there is a risk of an infection developing near the incision site.

These infections are known as surgical site infections and are serious and should prompt immediate consultation with your healthcare provider. 


The treatment for an itchy chest is based on the potential underlying cause. For example, if you are having an allergic reaction then medications for allergies may be needed. Similarly, bug bites and fungal infections of the skin may benefit from topical ointments.

There are many anti-itch creams available over the counter and as prescriptions from a healthcare provider. Some common medications used to treat an itchy chest are:

How to Cope With an Itchy Chest

To cope with an itchy chest, you can try some of these practices that help with dry skin:

  • Apply moisturizer after bathing or showering.
  • Keep your home humidified, especially in the winter months.
  • Avoid using detergents or shampoos on areas where there is itching.
  • Avoid wearing harsh fabrics like wool and other topical irritants.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you are experiencing frequent itching for days or even weeks then you should see your healthcare provider. Many healthcare providers have experience handling rashes and skin infections and there are many treatments available. 


There are many possible causes of an itchy chest. Determining the reason behind your itchy chest will help you identify a treatment that will provide you some relief.

A Word From Verywell

An itchy chest is an uncomfortable feeling with many potential causes. Working with a healthcare provider can help find the right treatments available. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What does it mean if you’re itchy all over your body?

    Itchiness is usually localized to one region of the body. If you feel itching around your entire body, internal issues may need to be evaluated. Some conditions like liver diseases, kidney diseases, blood disorders, and even cancers can all cause an itchy feeling across the entire body. 

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Andrade A, Kuah CY, Martin-Lopez JE, et al. Interventions for chronic pruritus of unknown origin. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD013128.pub2

  2. Johns Hopkins Health. Contact dermatitis.

  3. Metz M. Treatments for chronic pruritus outside of the box. Exp Dermatol. 2019;28(12):1476-1481. doi:10.1111/exd.14007

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shingles (herpes zoster).

  5. Wilcock J, Etherington C, Hawthorne K, Brown G. Insect bites. BMJ. 2020:m2856. doi:10.1136/bmj.m2856

  6. Boehncke WH, Schön MP. Psoriasis. The Lancet. 2015;386(9997):983-994. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61909-7

  7. Gunaydin SD, Arikan-Akdagli S, Akova M. Fungal infections of the skin and soft tissue. Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases. doi:10.1097/QCO.0000000000000630

  8. Pereira MP, Kremer AE, Mettang T, Ständer S. Chronic pruritus in the absence of skin disease: pathophysiology, diagnosis and treatment. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2016;17(4):337-348. doi:10.1007/s40257-016-0198-0

By Kevin James Cyr
Kevin is a physician-in-training at Stanford University School of Medicine with a focus in cardiovascular disease and bioengineering. His publications have earned international awards, and his work has been featured in major media outlets such as NBC News.