Skin rashes can be unsightly as well as uncomfortable. The word rash is a general term that encompasses many different skin disorders. It is typically used to describe skin that is red, itchy, bumpy, swollen, cracked or blistered. There are many causes of skin rashes. Sometimes the underlying cause is an infection or other serious medical condition. This is why it’s so important to determine the cause of a rash before proceeding with treatment.
Causes of Skin Rashes
- Contact dermatitis is caused by an allergy or irritation to something the skin has come in contact with. Common irritants include detergents, cosmetics, latex, dyes and poisonous plants, such as poison ivy or poison sumac.
- Seborrheic dermatitis shows as patches of scaly, red skin in areas around the face and trunk of the body. When it appears on the scalp, it is referred to as dandruff.
- Allergic reactions to certain medications can manifest as skin rashes. This type of reaction is especially common with antibiotics.
- Eczema is a red, scaly, itchy rash that is common in allergy and asthma sufferers.
- Psoriasis causes red, itchy, scaly patches on the scalp or body.
- Impetigo is a very contagious bacterial infection that produces crusty blisters on the skin. The condition is more common in children.
- Insect bites can cause rashes. Some people are allergic to certain insects and will have a much stronger reaction to a bite.
- Medical conditions can produce skin rashes. Some of the more common ones are chicken pox, measles, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
There are many things that you can do to prevent common types of skin rashes:
- Keep the skin clean and dry.
- Use powder in hot weather to prevent chafing.
- Wear gloves when using strong cleaning products.
- Use hypoallergenic laundry detergent.
- Don’t share bath towels.
- Wear flip flops in public showers.
- Remove wet bathing suits immediately after swimming.
When prevention isn't enough, you can turn to the following treatments:
Non infectious rashes can be treated by bathing the affected skin in cool or lukewarm water. Oatmeal may be used in the bath to calm the skin and relieve itching. Gently pat dry and follow with a soothing ointment like calamine lotion.
Over the counter antihistamines will help to relieve itchy rash symptoms. Some antihistamine products may cause drowsiness.
Hydrocortisone creams work by decreasing itchiness and reducing inflammation. These should only be used on small areas for a limited time. If the rash is widespread throughout the body, a prescription, oral corticosteroid may be required.
Infectious rashes should be treated by addressing the underlying cause. Prescription antibacterial or antifungal medications may be required.
Prevent Cross Contamination
Launder all affected clothing in hot water to prevent a contagious rash from spreading to other members of the household.
It’s not wise to try to self diagnose a rash. Make an appointment with a doctor if you are unsure of the cause or have other symptoms such as fever, sore throat or joint pain.
Seek immediate medical attention for any rash accompanied by shortness of breath, tight throat or facial swelling.