Causes of Itchy Red Bumps on the Neck

The neck is one of the most frequently exposed areas of skin on the human body. If you have a itchy rash, or dermatitis on your neck, the condition is usually painless, but often unsightly and uncomfortable. No matter the cause of your red bumps, one bit of advice remains consistent -- don’t scratch. Scratching can cause abrasions and introduce bacteria that make the skin susceptible to infection.

Check for Irritants

Irritant contact dermatitis occurs when some object or substance that is irritating comes in contact with the skin around the neck 13. This could be an itchy wool collar, a piece of jewelry that has rough edges or any chemical that damages skin cells, such as detergents or hair dye. The irritant could be something relatively mild to which the skin is exposed for a prolonged period of time, or a stronger irritant that causes dermatitis upon contact 13. In irritant contact dermatitis, the broken surface of the abraded skin loses moisture and dries out, leading to the itchiness and rash 13. Some skin types are more vulnerable than others, according to DermNet NZ.

Do You Have an Allergy?

Another type of dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis, results when the skin comes in contact with an object that the body has erroneously identified as a threat 13. In response, the cells of the affected area release histamines, chemicals that increase blood vessel permeability, which permits fluids that contain white blood cells to flow out of the blood vessels and into the affected tissue. The area experiences swelling and irritation, sometimes accompanied by blisters. Poison ivy is a form of allergic contact dermatitis that most people are familiar with 13. EczemaNet lists other substances that commonly cause:

  • allergic contact dermatitis
  • such as fragrances
  • which are frequently applied to the neck; rubber
  • which can be found in the elastic found in clothing that touches the neck;
  • metals such as nickel
  • which is commonly used in necklaces 13

Some people may find that a fragrance that normally poses no problem will result in a red, itchy rash when the area to which the fragrance is applied is exposed to the sun. This phenomena is known as allergic photocontact dermatitis. Both factors--exposure to the allergen, followed by exposure to the UV light of the sun--must be in place for allergic photocontact dermatitis to occur. EczemaNet reports that sunscreen itself is often the culprit in occurrences of allergic photocontact dermatitis.