Skin Rash

What is a Skin Rash?

A skin rash is any abnormal change in the skin’s texture or color. The most common source lies in some type of inflammation, which may be caused by numerous factors. The way a rash presents itself helps medical professionals pinpoint a diagnosis. Some of the more common skin rashes include dermatitis, psoriasis, eczema, diaper rash, rosacea, heat rash, shingles, and swimmer’s itch. Rashes can also form due to acne, insect bites, contact with poisonous plants, allergies, and excessive sweating. Even soaps, shampoos, detergents, cosmetics, and medications can cause some people’s skin to become inflamed.

Most rashes are not serious and are little more than an annoyance. In some cases, however, a rash can indicate an underlying disorder that could potentially be life threatening. Perhaps the best-known example of this is toxic shock syndrome. In these situations, other symptoms are almost always present and should be evaluated by a doctor.

What are the Symptoms of Skin Rash?

A rash can take on virtually any appearance, including:

  • Blotchy or uniform spots, may be localized or generalized
  • Silver, red, purple, or white-colored patches
  • Flakiness
  • Scaly skin
  • Bumps, may or may not contain fluid
  • Course patches
  • Scabbing

In addition, patients may experience coughing, fevers, conjunctivitis (also called pink eye), joint pain, fatigue, itchiness, numbness or tingling, swollen lymph nodes, respiratory symptoms, and soreness or pain. Some rashes may travel or change appearance over the course of its existence.

Skin Rash Causes

There are many different reasons why a skin rash may occur, which can make it difficult to diagnose the root cause. In some cases, it is an illness which is to blame, such as measles, shingles or chicken pox. In others, it could be an allergic reaction to something, such as plants, foods, chemicals or medications.

Three of the most common types of skin rashes are eczema, hives and contact dermatitis. Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition which tends to flare up when the skin is exposed to certain triggers. Hives is often very temporary and occurs as a result of exposure to allergens, but in some instances, particularly chronic cases, stress is to blame for the condition. Contact dermatitis is another common condition which occurs when the skin comes into contact with an allergen or irritant, which could be soaps, cosmetics, topical medications or metals.

In some instances, a rash can occur as a result of a parasitic infection. Swimmer’s itch and ringworm are two common examples of this. It’s also possible to develop a rash as a result of exposure to heat (heat rash) or from persistent skin-to-skin friction (intertrigo), such as between the thighs.

Other possible causes of a skin rash include:

  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Lichen planus
  • Psoriasis
  • Rosacea

How is a Skin Rash Treated?

Skin rash treatments vary depending on the source of the inflammation. Some people prefer to try home remedies first to see if the rash will go away on its own. Olive oil, apple cider vinegar, baking soda, oatmeal, chamomile, Aloe Vera, and cold compresses are all common home treatments. There are also over-the-counter creams and medications available, such as Neosporin and Cortizone-10. However, if the rash does not improve within a few days, a prescription for a steroid or antihistamine may be needed.

Skin Rash Prevention

It isn’t always possible to prevent skin rashes, but those who have had them in the past may be able to prevent further instances by avoiding known triggers or allergens. For example, someone with eczema who tends to experience flare-ups when their skin is exposed to perfumes would avoid using strong-smelling cosmetics, lotions, soaps or laundry detergents.

In some instances where the rash is caused by allergies, it may be possible to prevent it by taking anti-allergy medications. These are available in tablet form or as an injection, but they may not be effective for all types of allergies or reactions.

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Last Reviewed:
September 14, 2016
Last Updated:
November 08, 2017