What are rashes?

Rashes are abnormal changes in skin color or texture, and are typically associated with irritation or swelling.

Rashes can be caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi, medicines, heat, allergies, insect bites, plants, diseases, and many other things. Most are only a minor annoyance, but some can be serious and need medical treatment.

What are the symptoms of a rash?

Many rashes are itchy, red, painful, and irritated and can exhibit discolored bumps; flat spots or areas; or intact or crusted over pus-filled blisters/bumps.

Color: The range of color of a skin rash can be light or dark red, white, pink, purple, or black. It can also be the same color as the person’s skin tone.        

Texture: The texture of a skin rash can range from flat, raised, bumpy, blister-like, or crusted. In some diseases, such as chickenpox, areas can have more than one of these characteristics at the same time.

  •  If the rash is blistered and turns into open sores, it could be the result of an allergic reaction, a reaction to medication, or an internal cause. 

Pattern: The pattern of a skin rash can appear as distinct spots or patches, or cover a larger, continuous area. .

Location: The location of the skin rash might include one area of the body, such as the face, or it can include multiple areas.

  • A rash covering the whole body may indicate an infection or allergic reaction.
  • Seek medical attention if a blistering rash affects the skin around your eyes, multiple areas in your mouth, or your genitals.

How are rashes prevented?

Rashes can be hard to avoid; however, some can be prevented.

Tips for prevention include:

  • Avoid people with contagious skin rashes.
  • For allergic rashes, try to avoid the substance that causes the reaction. If you are not sure what causes the reaction, discuss with your doctor if allergy testing may be beneficial. Patient First can provide a referral to an allergist who can perform sensitivity testing.
  • Wash your skin immediately after contact with irritants or allergens.
  • Wear protective clothing or gloves when dealing with irritants.
  • Use moisturizer to protect your skin.
  • Talk to your doctor if you experience a rash after taking medications.
  • Use sunscreen to avoid sunburn.
  • Avoid harsh soaps and cosmetics. Use fragrance-free options when available.
  • To help prevent heat rash, wear lightweight and loose-fitting clothes made of cotton, and plan outdoor activities during the coolest parts of the day. At home, keep your skin cool with fans, air conditioning, and cool showers.
  • To prevent rashes from poisonous plants, learn how to recognize and avoid them.
  • To prevent bug bites, use a DEET-free insect repellent and wear appropriate clothing. Some people develop rashes due to skin sensitivity to the chemical DEET found in many insect repellents.

How are rashes treated?

Because rashes can be caused by many different irritants, it is important to see a physician to determine what kind of rash you have before it is treated.

Some treatments include:

  • Take an antihistamine to relieve itching.
  • Add one to two cups of oatmeal to your bath. Use powdered oatmeal, not the type that you eat for breakfast.
  • Pat the skin dry (instead of rubbing) after a bath or shower.
  • Don’t scrub or scratch the affected skin.
  • Leave the rash exposed to the air as much as possible.
  • Use cortisone cream, calamine lotion, Benadryl cream, or aloe vera to relieve discomfort.
  •  For mild pain, use acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Note that these are not a long-term solution – they will not treat the cause of the rash. 

Remember to speak to a doctor before taking any medication. Research types and brands before purchasing over-the-counter or online products to ensure the product is suitable.

When should you seek medical attention?

A sudden rash that spreads rapidly could be the result of an allergy. If breathing becomes difficult, go to the emergency room or call 911.

  • Painful rashes should be evaluated by a physician.
  • If the rash has become infected, medical attention is necessary. Signs of an infected rash are yellow or green fluid, swelling, crusting, pain, and warmth in the area of the rash, or a red streak coming from the rash.
  • A fever accompanied by a skin rash might indicate communicable diseases such as chickenpox, measles, or rubella (German measles).
  • A sore throat or joint pain associated with a rash can be serious and should be evaluated by a doctor.
  • If you have recently started a new medication, it may be an allergic reaction that could worsen without treatment.
  • Recent insect bites may cause rashes that could be significant if left untreated.

Patient First treats many conditions at our urgent care centers including rashes. You can visit any Patient First center from 8am to 8pm, any day of the week – no appointment is needed