person scratching their itchy chin and neck

Itchy Chin And Neck: What’s The Deal?

Do you experience an itchy chin and neck prior to or during asthma attacks? If so, you may not be alone. In fact, the asthma itch has been studied. Some researchers have referred to it as "prodromal itch.”1 So, what is asthma itch? Here’s what to know.

What is the asthma itch?

I first experienced it as a small child. My chin and neck would itch. It would usually precede an asthma attack and it would get worse during asthma attacks. When the asthma attack subsided, so too would the itch.

In 1985 I spent time at an asthma hospital in Denver. A part of my time there was spent in asthma groups. It was me and about 9 other asthmatics around the same age. The topic one day was about early warning symptoms of asthma.

Here we all listed our early warning symptoms and we compared symptoms. There were some we all experienced, such as coughing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. But, some symptoms were unusual symptoms. These were symptoms that were not very common.

One of those symptoms was “itchy chin.”

How is itchy chin linked to asthma?

Initially, I thought it was just me. I did not know others with asthma experienced “itchy chin.” But, apparently, it has been studied for years. In 1975 it was studied by Vaughan and Mackay. In 1979 it was discussed again by A.W. Orr in the article, “Prodromal itching in asthma.”1

So, here it was given a name: prodromal itching.

What is prodromal itching?  According to Dictionary.com:2

“Any early symptom indicating the onset of an attack or disease."

So, basically, it’s an early warning symptom of asthma. It means an asthma attack is impending.

Orr described prodromal itch this way:1

“The itching itself was described as a transitory sensation, lasting one to two minutes, varying in intensity between a mild tickle in most patients and a severely uncomfortable itch causing marked rubbing of the affected area in an attempt to relieve it.”

It’s an itch under your skin.

Sometimes I have scratched it. No matter how much I scratched, I couldn't get to the itch. It’s an insatiable itch. I admit, at times I did this without even thinking about it. And later in the day, someone would say, "You have scratches on your neck."

So, I learned not to scratch. If anything, I learned to rub.

Controlling itchy chin and neck

Now that my asthma is controlled I don’t experience this as much. But, occasionally I do experience it. And when I do, I know I’m around one of my asthma triggers. Usually it’s an allergen, most notably dust mites and mold spores. I know it’s an early warning sign that means it's time to take some action, such as removing myself from the trigger.

This is something I’ve learned from my own asthma experience. I did know that some other asthmatics experience this as well. I did not know until the day of this writing that it was actually observed and studied by researchers. So, it was kind of neat finding that old study.

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