A rash is a noticeable change in
the texture or color of your skin. Your skin may become scaly, bumpy, itchy, or
otherwise irritated. There are numerous causes for rashes, including:
- certain diseases, such as chickenpox and measles
dermatitis is one of the most common causes of rashes. Contact rashes occur
when the skin comes into direct contact with a foreign substance that causes an
adverse reaction, leading to a rash. The resulting rash may be itchy, red, or
inflamed. Possible causes of contact dermatitis include:
beauty products, soaps, and laundry detergent
dyes in clothing
in contact with chemicals in rubber, elastic, or latex
poisonous plants, such as poison oak, poison ivy, or poison sumac
Taking medications may also cause rashes. They can form as a
allergic reaction to the medication
side effect of the medication
- photosensitivity to the medication
Other possible causes of rashes include the following:
rash can sometimes develop in the area of a bug bite. Tick bites are of particular concern
because they can transmit disease.
- Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a
rash that primarily occurs in people with asthma or allergies. The rash is
often reddish and itchy with a scaly texture.
- Psoriasis is a common skin condition that can cause a scaly, itchy,
red rash to form along the scalp, elbows, and joints.
- Seborrheic eczema is a type of eczema that
most often affects the scalp and causes redness, scaly patches, and dandruff.
It can also occur on the ears, mouth, or nose. When babies have it, it’s known
as crib cap.
erythematosus is an autoimmune disease that triggers a rash on the cheeks
and nose. This rash is known as a "butterfly," or malar, rash.
- RA is an
autoimmune disease that can cause a rash
to form on various body parts.
Causes of rashes in children
Children are particularly prone to rashes that develop as a result of illnesses, such as:
- chickenpox, which is a virus characterized
by red, itchy blisters that form all over the body
- measles, which is a viral respiratory
infection that causes a widespread rash consisting of itchy, red bumps
is an infection due to group A Streptococcus
bacteria that produces a toxin causing a bright red sandpaper-like rash
foot, and mouth disease, which is a viral infection that can cause red lesions on
the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet
which is a viral infection that causes a red, flat rash on the cheeks, upper
arms, and legs
which is a rare but serious illness that triggers a rash and fever in the early
stages and can lead to an aneurysm of the coronary artery as a complication
- impetigo, which is a contagious
bacterial infection that causes an itchy, crusty rash and yellow, fluid-filled sores
on the face, neck, and hands
care of rashes at home
You can treat most contact rashes, but it depends on the
cause. Follow these guidelines to help ease discomfort and speed up the healing
mild, gentle cleansers instead of scented bar soaps.
warm water instead of hot water for washing your skin and hair.
the rash dry instead of rubbing it.
the rash breathe. If it’s possible, avoid covering it with clothing.
using new cosmetics or lotions because they may have triggered the rash.
unscented moisturizing lotion to areas affected by eczema.
- Avoid scratching the rash because doing so can
make it worse and could lead to infection.
- Apply an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream
to the affected area if the rash is very itchy and causing discomfort. Calamine
lotion can also help relieve rashes from chickenpox, poison ivy, or poison oak.
- Take an oatmeal bath. This can soothe the
itchiness associated with rashes from eczema or psoriasis. Here’s
how to make an oatmeal bath.
- Wash your hair and scalp regularly with
dandruff shampoo if you have dandruff along with a rash. Medicated dandruff shampoo is
commonly available at drugstores, but your doctor can prescribe stronger types
if you need them.
or ibuprofen in moderation for mild pain associated with the
rash. Talk to your doctor before you start taking these drugs, and avoid taking
them for an extended period because they can have side effects. Ask your doctor
how long it’s safe for you to take them. You may not be able to take them if
you have liver or kidney disease or a history of stomach ulcers.
to see your doctor about rashes
Go to the hospital immediately if you experience a rash
along with any of the following symptoms:
pain or discoloration in the rash area
or itchiness in the throat
of the face or extremities
of 100.4°F or higher
head or neck pain
vomiting or diarrhea
Contact your doctor if you have a rash as well as other
systemic symptoms including:
fever slightly above 100.4°F
streaks or tender areas near the rash
recent tick bite or animal bite
to expect during your appointment
Your doctor will perform a physical exam and inspect your
rash. Expect to answer questions about your:
- medical history
- recent use of products or medications
Your doctor may also:
tests, such as an allergy test or complete blood count
a skin biopsy, which involves taking a small sample of skin tissue for analysis
you to a specialist, such as a dermatologist, for further evaluation
Your doctor may also prescribe medication or medicated
lotion to relieve your rash. Most people can treat their rashes effectively
with medical treatments and home care.
What you can do now
Follow these tips if you have a rash:
- Use home remedies to soothe mild contact rashes.
- Identify potential triggers for the rash, and
avoid them as much as possible
- Call your doctor if the rash doesn’t go away
with home treatments. You should also contact your doctor if you’re
experiencing other symptoms in addition to your rash and you suspect you have
- Carefully follow any treatments your doctor
prescribes. Speak with your doctor if your rash persists or gets worse despite
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Written by: Natalie Phillips
on: Apr 13, 2016: University of Illinois-Chicago, College of Medicine
This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.