Causes of Skin Rashes

Skin rashes have many causes. While some causes are rare and sometimes dangerous, the majority of skin rashes tend to be minor conditions. A few rashes can be persistent and uncomfortable; however, most are temporary or easily treated. Nearly all individuals will have contracted several different skin rashes before entering adulthood.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is caused by an allergic reaction or overexposure to particular substances or materials. Some plants, cosmetics, lotions, soaps and fabrics can produce allergic reactions in some individuals.

Contact dermatitis may also occur when the skin has been exposed to certain substances, such as cleaning products or water for a prolonged and repeated period of time. The rash is limited to contact areas.

Atopic Dermatitis

Eczema is the most common form of atopic dermatitis. Skin may appear dry, scaly, patchy, itchy and red. The condition may persist for several months or years, before decreasing in severity. Most individuals suffer from repeated outbreaks. This condition is believed to be inherited, as it affects members of some families more than others.


Psoriasis may be an inherited condition; however, it is not well understood by the medical community. It tends to break out in patches that are scaly and white, surrounded by red borders. Psoriasis can appear anywhere on the body.

Viral Infections

In most cases, a rash caused by a viral infection will disappear within a week. These types of rashes are reddish and may appear bumpy. They may also be itchy. Viral rashes generally appear over the entire body; however, there are exceptions.

The same virus as chickenpox causes shingles and only individuals who have had chickenpox can develop them. Shingles usually appear on one side of the body. They may appear as a mild rash or as weepy, open sores. Shingles affect the nerve endings in the body and are accompanied by pain that may be mild to severe. Shingles predominantly affects older adults.

Bacterial Infections

Staphylococcal and streptococcal infections can produce a blistery rash known as impetigo. This contagious bacterial skin condition is most common in young children and adults who work with children in daycare centers and elementary schools.

Fluid filled blisters that may or may not itch characterize impetigo. Often, impetigo is accompanied by symptoms that resemble influenza.

Fungal Infections

A rash caused by a fungal infection may look like dermatitis, as in the case of ringworm. Those caused by yeast infections may appear very red and blistery. This type of rash is often mistaken for eczema. Athlete’s foot is a type of ringworm on the foot.

Allergic Reactions

A skin rash can result from an allergic reaction to food or medicine. This type of rash will usually appear as small red bumps radiating from the chest or trunk of the body. Itching and hives may also be present.

Heat Rash

A heat rash is an irritation caused by continuous perspiration during hot weather. It tends to be more noticeable on the warmer parts of the body, such as the folds of the skin and in the groin region. Children are most susceptible, but active adults often suffer from heat rash during the summer months.

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