A skin rash is an area of your epidermis that is swollen or irritated. There are many different kinds of rashes and various reasons why they occur. A skin rash can be red, painful, itchy and irritated. Some include blisters or even sections of raw skin. A rash could be a symptom of another medical problem or an allergic reaction. While a substance or a specific type of material may cause a rash to develop, certain genetics can make you more likely to experience them.
Urgent Note About Skin Rashes: If you have a sudden, fast spreading rash, go to your nearest emergency room or call 911. Take oral diphenhydramine (Benadryl), if available. You could be having a severe allergic reaction that requires immediate medical attention.
Skin Rash Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosing a skin rash involves an assessment of your personal history, in addition to an examination of the skin. The area exhibiting the rash may need to be tested to confirm the type of rash that’s developed and to rule out an infection.
Skin rash treatments range from applying topical creams to taking antibiotics. You may need to change your diet or avoid wearing certain materials.
Skin Rash Evaluation
Most rashes are not life-threatening, but some may indicate that there is something more serious going on. Since skin rashes have many causes, the best course of action is to see a dermatologist for an evaluation.
Skin Rash Diagnosis and Treatment
If you have a rash and notice that it’s on your entire body or are experiencing a fever with it, consider making an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist. They will have the expertise to guide you toward the best treatment.
Why Choose the Laser and Skin Surgery Center of Indiana?
The Laser and Skin Surgery Center of Indiana (the LASSI) is a licensed dermatology practice owned and operated by a board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon. The LASSI is an accredited clinical trials facility, conducting dermatology research on skin conditions and treatments, testing the latest prescriptions and technology.
When you make an appointment with the LASSI, we’ll start with an assessment to make a skin rash diagnosis. We’ll review the extensiveness of the rash, how long it has been present and how it’s affecting you. For instance, is it causing you pain or discomfort? Is it something that’s bothering you due to its appearance and location?
During this first appointment, we’ll also evaluate your overall health history as well as any medications or supplements that you may be taking. Medical conditions are another consideration when it comes to rashes. With this information, we’ll have the details to plan a course of action and recommend the best treatment for you.
Common Skin Rash Types
Common skin rashes range from atopic dermatitis, which is a rash that makes your skin itchy and red, to ringworm, a fungal infection that forms across the top layer of your skin. Depending on the rash, you can experience anything from a reddened area with no additional symptoms to a scaly, swollen, oozing, itching, or bleeding skin rash.
Common skin rash types include:
- Atopic dermatitis (eczema)
- Contact dermatitis
- Drug (potential emergency)
- Lichen planus
- Swimmer’s itch
A condition that causes your skin to become red, scaly, and itchy, atopic dermatitis (aka eczema) is common in kids. However, it can affect people of all ages. Atopic dermatitis is a long-lasting skin condition, one that tends to flare up periodically. It may develop with hay fever or asthma. Researchers haven’t been able to find a cure for eczema yet, but you can treat it by avoiding triggers and using eczema relief moisturizing creams. In the last few years, potent drugs have been developed for severe cases. Symptoms include dry skin, flaking and peeling, and red or brown patches.
Contact dermatitis is a rash that’s red and itchy. It develops when you come into contact with something that you are allergic to. This type of rash isn’t contagious, nor is it life-threatening, but it can be extremely uncomfortable. Soaps, fragrances, plants (e.g. poison ivy), metal allergies, and cosmetics can all be triggers of contact dermatitis.
Drug Rash (Potential Emergency)
Drug rashes occur when your body reacts to certain types of medicines. The type of skin rash that develops will depend on the medication that’s causing the reaction. Medicines have been known to cause almost any kind of rash. The timing of a drug rash may vary. For instance, one could show up almost as soon as you start taking a medication or several weeks afterward. If it’s accompanied with a runny nose or itching, then you may be allergic to the drug. If you have just started taking a new medication and experience a sudden rash, especially one that spreads rapidly, go to the nearest emergency room or call 911.
Heat rash is a skin condition that forms when pores become blocked and trap perspiration beneath the skin. It’s also referred to as prickly heat and miliaria. While you may think of babies when you hear the name “heat rash,” it can actually affect people of any age. Symptoms include severe itching, deep, red lumps and blisters. It usually forms on the shoulders, chest and neck. You may also see it develop in your armpits and elbow creases.
Intertrigo is a reddish-brown skin rash that is often accompanied by an odor. It forms between the folds of your skin. As a common rash, it can show up at any time during your life. Intertrigo can form in your armpits, on your abdomen, beneath the breasts or in the genital area. It can appear in any folds of skin that come into contact with one another. When it happens in infants, it’s called diaper rash.
Lichen planus is a medical condition that causes your skin to become irritated and swollen. It can form on the outer skin, nails, mucous membranes and hair. When it develops, it forms in lacy white patches. Sometimes, lichen planus features painful sores. Often, the rash goes away on its own.
A common skin rash that increases the life cycle of your skin cells, psoriasis is a condition in which the extra skin cells develop scales and red patches. These can be painful and are usually itchy. Psoriasis is a chronic disease that may come and go throughout several years. The skin condition typically affects people when they reach adulthood.
Ringworm is a fungal infection that forms on the top portion of your skin. You can recognize it by the red, round rash that features clear skin in the center. Ringworm often itches. It received its name from the way that it looks. A worm is not infecting you, but the condition is contagious. You can contract ringworm by sharing personal items with someone who has the condition.
Rosacea is a skin condition that affects many people. It causes redness along with noticeable blood vessels in your face. Rosacea can also produce small, red bumps that may become filled with pus. When flare ups occur, they may be present for several weeks to a few months. Sometimes, people mistake rosacea for acne.
A viral infection, shingles causes a painful rash. While it can develop on any part of your body, it generally forms as a single section of blisters that wrap around the left or the right side of your midsection. The virus that causes chickenpox is the same one that causes shingles to develop. If you had chickenpox as a child, then the virus remains inactive in your nerve tissue close to your spinal cord and brain. Later, the virus may return as shingles.
Swimmer’s itch forms after you go swimming or wade into water outdoors. An itchy rash, swimmer’s itch is also known as cercarial dermatitis. It happens most often when you spend time in freshwater lakes and ponds, but you may develop it after swimming in saltwater.
Other Skin Rash Types
The features of viral rashes depend on the type of rash. However, most of them cause splotchy red spots. These spots may form suddenly or develop slowly over a few days. Viral rashes can show up in small sections or cover several areas. For instance, measles can cause a rash that will start on your cheeks before spreading to your limbs and torso. Viral infections like Fifth Disease, the Zika virus and mononucleosis may be accompanied with a skin rash.
Dry skin rashes include conditions caused by winter. Sensitive skin as well as eczema, rosacea and asthma can lead to cold weather rashes. If you spend a lot of time outside, then you may be more likely to develop a winter rash. When your skin is in low humidity or high wind conditions, it may lose its natural oils, allowing a dry rash to form.
If your skin develops a skin rash after sun exposure, then you may have an allergy that involves the sun. This type of rash is usually itchy and red. The most common form is a polymorphic light eruption, which is also called sun poisoning. Some people have a sun allergy that’s hereditary while others develop it from another factor like a medication or exposure to a certain type of plant.
Other skin rashes include allergic conditions like the kind you get from poison ivy or bacterial infections like athlete’s foot.
While you may need medical treatment for a skin rash, keep in mind that many of these conditions resolve on their own.
When to See a Doctor About Your Skin Rash
See a dermatologist about your skin rash when:
- The rash appears suddenly and spreads quickly. (go to the nearest emergency room)
- It starts to blister.
- The rash is all over your body.
- The rash is painful.
- A fever accompanies the rash.
- The rash is infected.
Skin Rash All Over the Body (Potential Emergency)
When a rash forms all over your body, then something else could be happening, such as an allergic reaction or an infection. Such issues could be quite serious, especially if the rash appears suddenly and spreads quickly. Go to the nearest emergency room or dial 911 for assistance. Consider taking a fast acting oral anti-histamine like diphenhydramine (Benadryl).
Skin Rash and Fever
If you develop a skin rash and a fever, then you should contact your physician or visit your nearest urgent care facility. Skin rashes combined with a fever may mean that you’re experiencing an allergic reaction or an ailment like measles, scarlet fever or shingles. Call your doctor, visit an urgent care facility, or visit the emergency room if you have a particularly high fever, especially if it rose rapidly.
Sudden, Fast-Spreading Rash (Emergency Attention Required)
A sudden, fast-spreading rash is another indication of an allergy to a medication, food, or something else. These are common, and some of them are dangerous. A rash or reddened skin that spreads quickly across the body requires immediate medical attention. Visit your nearest emergency room right away and consider taking an oral antihistamine such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl).
If the rash that has developed on your body is formed from blisters or if the skin rash transitions into one with open sores, then this could be due to an allergic reaction. This could be something that’s going on with your body internally or a reaction to a medication. If the blistering extends to the skin around your eyes, mouth or genitals, then seek medical attention.
If a rash should become painful, then be sure to have a dermatologist assess it. You could be experiencing an allergic reaction or an infection.
When you have an itchy rash, it can be hard to avoid scratching it. If you give into this urge, the rash could become infected. The signs of an infected skin rash include green or yellow fluid. Crusting, pain, warmth or swelling around the skin rash or red streaks surrounding it are other signs of an infection.
Possible Treatments for Skin Rashes
In most cases, a skin rash is not dangerous. Many of them hang around for a bit and then just go away on their own. Because of this, most dermatologists will advise you to treat the symptoms of dry skin or itchiness and wait a few days to see if the skin condition clears up. Possible non-prescription treatments include:
- Anti-itch creams that contain 1% hydrocortisone
- Oral antihistamines
- Moisturizing lotions
- Topical anti-fungal medications
Topical anti-fungal medicines that feature clotrimazole, miconazole or terbinafine are typically the most effective.
Prescription medications can be effective when it comes to treating skin rashes. However, the right kind of medicine will depend on the type of rash that you have. For instance, viral rashes will require a different medication than bacterial conditions. Effective prescriptions include:
- Benzoyl peroxide
If you’re experiencing a skin rash from a condition like rosacea, then the best treatment may be an intense pulsed light (IPL) photofacial. You may need several treatments followed by regular maintenance. Facials can also be a way to treat rosacea and other skin ailments.
Knowing what causes skin rashes to develop can help you and your dermatologist to provide effective treatment. Triggers include:
- Sun exposure
- Hot beverages
- Red wine
- Extreme temperatures
- Fabric, especially wool or synthetic fabrics like polyester
Get Help for Your Skin Rash in Indianapolis
If you need help for your skin rash, make an appointment at the Laser and Skin Surgery Center of Indiana. Our team of dermatology experts will evaluate your skin, make a diagnosis, and recommend treatments. To get started, book a consultation today.