Rash is a general, nonspecific term that describes any visible skin outbreak. Rashes are very common in all ages, from infants to seniors, and nearly everyone will have some type of rash at some point in their life. There are a wide variety of medical diagnoses for skin rashes and many different causes. A dermatologist is a medical provider who specializes in diseases of the skin and may need to be consulted for rashes that are difficult to diagnose and treat.
While there are many different types, rashes may basically be divided into two types:
- Noninfectious rashes include: eczema, contact dermatitis, psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, drug eruptions, rosacea, hives, dry skin, and allergic dermatitis. Many noninfectious rashes are typically treated with corticosteroid creams and/or pills. Even a noncontagious, noninfectious rash can cause discomfort and anxiety.
- Infection-associated rashes include: ringworm, impetigo, Staphylococcus, scabies, herpes, chickenpox and shingles which are treated by treating the underlying cause. Infectious agents that can cause a rash include viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites.
Determining the specific cause of rash usually requires a description of the skin rash, including its shape, arrangement, distribution, duration, symptoms, and history. These factors and accurate information about past treatments, successful and unsuccessful, is very important. Your healthcare provider may also inquire about your medical history, recent products or medications you have recently used, diet, and hygiene. He may also order tests such as an allergy test, complete blood count or perform a skin biopsy.
Home care for rashes may help ease discomfort and speed up healing include:
- Use mild, gentle cleansers instead of scented bar soaps
- Use warm water instead of hot water for bathing
- Pat the rash dry instead of rubbing
- Use unscented lotions
- Avoid scratching the rash, this could lead to infection
- Over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream and calamine lotion can help with the itching and discomfort
If you experience rash with any of the following symptoms, go to the ER immediately:
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of face or extremities
- Confusion or dizziness
- Repeated vomiting and diarrhea
- Fever 100.4 degrees or higher
- Tightness or itchiness in the throat
- Increasing pain or discoloration in the rash area
Call your healthcare provider if the rash doesn’t go away with home treatments. Carefully follow any treatments your doctor prescribes.