What is ear itching?

Ear itching is a tickling, irritating sensation accompanied by the persistent need to scratch your ear. Redness, swelling, soreness, flaking and scarring may occur in the area of itchiness. The medical term for itchiness is pruritus. Although scratching may temporarily relieve your symptoms, it can cause more irritation or lead to an infection. With most cases of itching, it is best to refrain from scratching and leave the area alone to heal.

Itching can be a symptom of ear infection. A common ear infection is otitis externa, commonly known as swimmer’s ear, which can occur when moisture remains in the ear after swimming or other exposure to water. Other possible causes of ear itching include insect bites, contact allergies, and trauma. Wounds that are healing often start to itch as a sign of improvement. Chickenpox, an extremely common childhood illness, is accompanied by red, oozing blisters that cause intense itching. Eczema, contact dermatitis, scabies, and ringworm are other sources of itching.

Itching that is sudden, severe or unusual should be evaluated by your health care provider. Itching caused by a serious food allergy can come on rapidly, with a strong need to scratch. This type of itching may be symptomatic of a serious anaphylactic reaction, which impairs breathing; causes swelling, fainting and vomiting; and is considered a medical emergency.

Sudden itching can be a sign of anaphylaxis, a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction to a food, chemical, or insect sting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if ear itching is accompanied by serious symptoms that include swelling of the face or constriction of the throat, difficulty breathing, fainting, or a change in level of consciousness or alertness.


What other symptoms might occur with ear itching?

Ear itching may be accompanied by other symptoms, depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Certain conditions that cause ear itching may also involve other body systems.

Related localized symptoms that may occur along with ear itching

Ear itching may be accompanied by other localized symptoms including:


What causes ear itching?

Ear itching may have many possible causes, including allergens (agents that cause allergies), infections, autoimmune disorders, or other causes, such as stress.

Allergic causes of ear itching

Ear itching could be an allergic reaction to any of the following:

  • Certain foods Read more about ear itchingcauses

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 1, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Ear, Nose and Throat

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