Psychophysical studies of the itch sensation and itchy skin ("alloknesis") produced by intracutaneous injection of histamine

Somatosens Mot Res. 1991;8(3):271-9. doi: 10.3109/08990229109144750.


Psychophysical measurements of itch and itchy skin ("alloknesis"--itch produced by innocuous mechanical stimulation) were obtained in human volunteers following intracutaneous or subcutaneous injections of histamine or papain into the volar forearm. Histamine and papain were given in doses of 0.1, 1, or 10 micrograms in 10 microliters of saline. The effects of the depth of injection and of skin temperature on the latency, magnitude, and duration of itch were examined. Also, dose-response functions were obtained for the area of alloknesis produced by intracutaneous injections of histamine. Finally, the neural mechanisms underlying the spread of alloknesis were investigated via local anesthesia of the skin. Intracutaneous and subcutaneous injections of histamine, but not papain, produced a sensation of itch without pain. The latency of itch was shorter after an intracutanous than after a subcutaneous injection of histamine. The mean latencies of itch produced by a 1-microgram dose were 9.5 and 23.0 sec for intracutaneous and subcutaneous injections, respectively. No differences were observed in the magnitude or duration of itch. Similarly, the latency of itch was increased when the skin temperature at injection site was lowered to 15 degrees C, whereas the magnitude and duration of itch were unaffected. Intracutaneous and subcutaneous injections of histamine produced similar areas of alloknesis. However, the magnitude and duration of alloknesis were dependent on dose. The mean maximum areas of alloknesis produced by intracutaneous injections of 0.1, 1, and 10 micrograms of histamine were 28.3, 47.2, and 43.8 cm2, respectively. Alloknesis was present at 2 min after injection, increased to a maximum area without 10 min, and then gradually decreased during the next 25-40 min.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Histamine / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intradermal
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pruritus / chemically induced
  • Pruritus / physiopathology*
  • Psychophysics
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Sensory Receptor Cells / physiology*
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Skin / innervation*


  • Histamine