What you need to know about skin rashes


A skin rash is an area of skin that has become swollen or irritated. Skin rashes can include skin bumps or sores, scaly or red skin, and itchy or burning skin. Skin rashes can be caused by many medical conditions. Some skin rashes occur right away, while others take some time to develop. The location, appearance, and color of a skin rash are all important to help your doctor make the right diagnosis and start the right treatment.


  1. Chickenpox: A skin rash made up of blisters

The virus known as varicella zoster, more commonly called chickenpox, creates a skin rash of itchy blisters on the face that spreads down to cover the chest and back. It’s typically accompanied by fever and sore throat. Even though a vaccine is available, chickenpox is still common in children under age 12. Treatment is aimed at controlling symptoms, including fever with acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), and the itch with creams and cold compresses.

  1. Rubella: Red spots all over the skin

Another viral skin rash that affects children and young adults is rubella, or German measles. Rubella causes a rash of red skin spots that spreads like chickenpox from the face down. The skin rash can be itchy. Other symptoms include sore throat, fever, swollen glands, headache, and runny nose. There is a vaccine for rubella, but about 10 percent of young adults are still susceptible. Rubella can be very dangerous for pregnant women because it can cause birth defects. Treatment is similar to that for chickenpox.

  1. Hives: Sudden, itchy skin bumps

Urticaria, also known as hives, is a skin rash that comes on suddenly and causes pale, itchy, or pink swellings on your skin, and burns or stings. This skin condition can occur anywhere on the skin. Up to 20 percent of people may experience hives at least once in their lifetime. Hives may last for a few days or a few weeks and may be caused by an allergic reaction to a food or medication. The most common treatment is to avoid the cause and treat the symptoms with an antihistamine medication.

  1. Psoriasis: A Disease affecting the growth cycle of skin cells
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Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that can cause patches of thick, dry skin covered with silver scales. Known as plaques, these itchy patches can occur anywhere on the body. An estimated 7.5 million Americans have psoriasis, which occurs when a faulty immune system accelerates the growth cycle of skin cells. Many people with the condition also suffer from psoriatic arthritis, which causes joint pain and swelling. The exact cause of psoriasis is unclear, but genetics play a role. Treatments such as topical creams, light therapy, and medications can help manage psoriasis symptoms.

  1. Skin Rashes Caused by Medication

A drug-induced skin rash can be from an allergic reaction to a drug, a side effect of a drug, or from sensitivity to sunlight caused by a drug. A drug rash can occur right away after taking the drug, or up to several hours later. Types of drug rashes include hive or skin bump eruptions, purple or red skin discoloration, or scaly and thickened areas of skin. This skin condition can occur anywhere on the skin or even inside the mouth. Treatment is to stop taking the drug and manage the symptoms with antihistamines or steroids. In rare cases, drug-induced rashes can be serious or even fatal, so check with your doctor.

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  1. Prickly Heat: A Skin Rash that Stings

Prickly heat, or heat rash, causes red skin that stings and itches. Small skin bumps may form as well. Heat rash is caused when sweat gets blocked in your pores. This is a common rash in babies, but can occur at any age. This skin condition tends to form where skin rubs against skin, such as in skin folds of the neck, breasts, groin, and underarms. The best treatment is to cool off, dry off, and reduce friction.

  1. Intertrigo: A Skin Rash in Body Folds

Intertrigo is a skin condition that occurs in skin folds, under the breasts, on the inner thighs, under armpits, or under belly folds. Chaffing causes a rash of red skin or brown skin that gets infected with yeast or bacteria and becomes raw. The skin rash may ooze and itch. This rash is more common in people who are overweight and in people with diabetes. Treatment involves keeping the areas dry, treating infections, and using steroid creams.

  1. Rosacea: A Red Rash on the Face

Rosacea is a common skin condition that occurs on the face of adults. Symptoms of rosacea include redness of the cheeks, nose, forehead, and chin. Small blood vessels may be seen on the surface of the red skin, along with skin bumps and pimples, though this is not related to acne breakouts. Rosacea only affects the face. The cause is unknown and there is no cure, although treatment with antibiotics can minimize symptoms.

  1. Eczema: Red, Itchy Skin
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Another word for eczema is dermatitis, or inflammation of the skin. Eczema causes your skin to be dry and itchy. Scratching makes your skin red and inflamed. Eczema is not contagious, and common causes include detergents, soaps, wool, and synthetic fibers. Eczema is common in babies and children, but can be seen at any age. The best treatment is avoiding substances that your skin is sensitive to.

  1. Contact Dermatitis: A Skin Rash Caused by Irritation or Allergy

Contact dermatitis can be caused by any allergy-causing substance or irritating substance that touches your skin. Irritating substances are more common and include solvents, acid, and detergents. Allergic contact dermatitis is commonly seen with poison ivy, cosmetics, and medications that are applied to the skin. The skin rash of contact dermatitis can appear as red skin, skin bumps, blisters, scales, crusts, or sores. Itching is common. Treatment of contact dermatitis includes washing the skin and using anti-itch lotions and steroids.

  1. Impetigo: A Skin Rash Caused by Bacteria

Impetigo is a rash caused by a skin infection, usually traced to one of two bacteria, group A streptococcus or Staphylococcus aureus. This skin rash appears as brown, crusty sores or blisters around the nose or mouth area. The rash is very itchy and very contagious. Scratching the rash and then touching other areas of the body, or other people, will cause it to spread. Treatment of impetigo is with antibiotic creams or lotions, and for more severe cases, with oral antibiotics.


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