Skin rashes can happen to anyone, and with so many different types of rashes it can be difficult to detect which kind you have. This article provides a basic guide to the most common skin rashes, including the signs and symptoms to watch for and how to best treat them.
A rash is a skin condition that is marked by a change in the appearance of the skin. The change usually occurs as a different color and/or texture. Bumps, roughness, redness or blotchiness are common among many various rash types. In addition to a change in appearance, many rashes also cause discomfort or pain.
There are numerous types of skin rashes, many of which look and feel differently or occur on different parts of the body. The following are some of the most common skin rashes along with their symptoms, causes and treatment options:
- Eczema: Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema is a chronic condition which causes the skin to become red, scaly and itchy. It usually appears in patches on the face, neck, limbs or trunk. This type of rash usually appears periodically and will have periods where it subsides. This type of rash is more likely to occur in someone with allergies or asthma. Eczema is usually treated with medicated creams or ointments. Avoiding harsh soaps, detergents and irritants can help avoid flare-ups and control symptoms.
- Psoriasis: Psoriasis occurs when the life cycle of skin cells rapidly increases. This causes a buildup of rough, scaly skin that become itchy, dry and inflamed. In some cases, the patches of skin buildup will even be painful. Like eczema, this is a condition that flares up only periodically. Topical medications and light therapy are used to treat more serious forms of this condition.
- Chickenpox: This condition is caused by a viral infection and is characterized by extremely itchy blisters which appear all over the body. It usually occurs in children, but it is much less common now that there is a vaccine available. Soothing moisturizers, hydrocortisone creams and other basic rash treatments can be used to relieve symptoms until the condition clears up on its own.
- Shingles: Shingles is a condition that occurs when the chickenpox virus becomes reactivated during adulthood. It produces a rash that is comprised of small blisters and may be preceded by a burning or painful feeling. There is a vaccine available, although most cases of shingles go away within a few weeks without treatment.
- Skin Welt/Rash: This type of rash can occur as a result of injury or irritation to the skin. It usually appears as a raised, red area where contact occurred. Pain medications along with soothing creams may be used to treat these types of rashes.
- Allergic Reaction: When someone experiences an allergic reaction, it may result in a drug rash. This type of rash typically begins as small red spots that spread over large areas of the body. Though it usually clears up on its own, it’s important to see a doctor and avoid exposure to the allergen until getting treatment since it could cause a potentially fatal allergic reaction.
- Heat Rash: Heat rash develops as a result of the flow of sweat being obstructed. This usually occurs during hot, humid weather or as a result of wearing tight clothing or overdressing. It can appear as small red bumps with a pricking sensation or as clear, fluid-filled bumps. Keep the area with the rash cool and dry and free of restrictive clothing to get the rash to clear up.
- Swimmer’s Itch: This type of rash is caused by an allergic reaction to a waterborne parasite that burrows into the skin. It is comprised of tiny blisters or bumps and can be treated with soothing lotions or oatmeal baths. It usually goes away without treatment in about a week.
- Rosacea: This chronic skin condition causes redness in the face that looks similar to acne. The affected areas are usually covered in either small red bumps or pus-filled bumps. It tends to flare up periodically and may be triggered by certain foods, skin products, exposure to the sun or extreme temperatures. Though there is no cure, using basic home care options for treating rashes may help relieve symptoms. (See below)
A mild rash will typically subside on its own after several days. If you experience only slight itching or discomfort, you can wait a few days to see how your symptoms progress. No matter the case, you should go to a doctor as soon as the rash becomes worse or if it does not go away. Even if the rash is a result of a common irritant, you do not want to take any chances. In reality, a rash could be a symptom of many different things and could be warning signs of more dangerous conditions. In a majority of cases, a rash will subside after several days.
If you start to experience additional symptoms, you should contact your doctor. Pain, vomiting, fever, breathing difficulty, blisters, bleeding, and blackened skin are all warning signs that you may be experiencing a more severe illness. No matter how minor you think your symptoms are, you should see a doctor even if you feel the slightest bit of concern.
Once diagnosed, a doctor can treat your rash accordingly. Treatments will vary based on your condition. You may receive a prescription cream or antibiotics. You may have to use your medication, once, twice, or even three times a day for a few weeks. For severe allergic reactions, you may receive an injection or Intravenous (IV) medication. Poisonous insect, snake, and animal bites will require immediate treatment.
Some rashes have no treatment. They are incredibly itchy, painful, and uncomfortable, and you will have to wait for them to go away on their own. For example, Poison Oak rashes last up to two weeks. When you treat these rashes, you are trying to minimize the symptoms and make the experience more comfortable. You might need to use a cream medication or sit in an oatmeal bath to soothe your skin. Treatments can help shorten the duration and severity of your condition.
Sometimes, your rash might come back as part of a recurring condition. If you see a rash that looks familiar to a previous occurrence, chances are that it is the same one. In such cases, you will require the same treatment that you used before. In any case, it is best to consult a medical professional before treating yourself. Your doctor might want to explore alternative remedies.
Most basic rashes can be treated or controlled with a few simple home remedies. In general, it’s best to avoid using harsh soaps, lotions or ointments other than what has been prescribed for the condition. Instead, use only very gentle cleansers to wash the affected area. Make sure the affected area is exposed to the air as much as possible. If you recently started using a new cosmetic or skin care product, you may want to consider eliminating it to avoid future rashes. Finally, apply moisturizers and hydrocortisone cream to relieve symptoms.