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Common Causes of a Skin Rash

writtenByWritten by: Jennifer Nelson
Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer Nelson

Jennifer is a contributing health writer who has been researching and writing health content with PlushCare for 3 years. She is passionate about bringing accessible healthcare and mental health services to people everywhere.

Read more posts by this author.
reviewBy Reviewed by: Dr. Katalin Karolyi
Reviewer

Dr. Katalin Karolyi

Katalin Karolyi, M.D. earned her medical degree at the University of Debrecen. After completing her residency program in pathology at the Kenezy Hospital, she obtained a postdoctoral position at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, Orlando, Florida.

March 21, 2021 Read Time - 5 minutes

Common Skin Rash Causes and Treatments

Rashes can make you miserable, but they can also be a symptom of a serious problem. Either way, it is important to try to figure out the cause of your rash to help treat it. For example, if your rash is caused by an allergic reaction to something, treating the rash could be as simple as avoiding what caused the rash and using some hydrocortisone cream.

However, if the rash is a sign of an infection, you may need antibiotics, and if the rash is caused by a serious health condition, you will need to get that treated. Here are some of the most common causes of skin rashes to give you an idea of what you may be dealing with.

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What Is the Main Cause of Skin Rashes?

Skin rashes can be caused by any number of situations. Here are some of the most common causes of rashes.

Skin Rash Causes: Allergens

Contact dermatitis is a rash caused by the skin coming into contact with an allergen or irritant. Symptoms of contact dermatitis include itching, burning, blisters, or a rash that tends to be weepy or oozy. Some common allergens that can trigger a rash include:

  • Nail polish
  • Adhesives
  • Dyes in clothes
  • Soap
  • Laundry detergent
  • Latex
  • Plants
  • Beauty products
  • Shampoo
  • Fabric softener
  • Nickel (found in some jewelry)
  • Topical medications

Read: How to Get Rid of a Stress Rash


Skin Rash Causes: Heat

Heat rash, which is also known as miliaria and prickly heat, is caused by blocked pores (sweat ducts) trapping perspiration under the skin and commonly happens during hot, humid weather.

A heat rash may include anything from superficial blisters to deep, red lumps and may be prickly or itchy. 

Heat rash usually clears up on its own without treatment.

Skin Rash Causes: Infection

Bacterial, viral, and fungal infections can all cause rashes. Since these infections are all treated differently, it is important to get a diagnosis from a doctor. For example, an antibiotic will not clear up a rash caused by a fungus, and an antifungal medication will not clear up a rash caused by a virus.

When a skin rash is caused by an infection, the underlying infection must be treated. Simply treating the rash will not solve the actual problem, and some infections can become serious, even deadly, if left untreated.

Always consult a doctor if you think you have an infection.

Skin Rash Causes: Medications

Some medications can cause a rash as a primary side effect, while others, like some antibiotics, can make people more sensitive to sunlight, and they will only experience a rash if they go outside.

If you think your rash is connected to a medication you are taking, do not stop taking it until you have talked to your doctor. Some medications can cause serious problems if you stop them abruptly, and you must taper off the dose gradually. 

A rash caused by medication could go away on its own when your body gets used to it, it could be treated while you continue to take the medication, or it could be a sign of a serious allergic reaction. Talk to your doctor right away if you think your rash is caused by medication.

Skin Rash Causes: Immune Disorders

Lupus and other immune disorders happen when a person’s immune system begins to attack healthy tissue. This can cause a rash in some people. If you have an immune disorder and you are experiencing a rash, be sure to talk to your doctor.

How to Treat a Skin Rash

Skin rash treatment varies depending on the type and cause of the rash. While antihistamines and over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream may treat some rashes, they will not treat others. It is always best to talk to a doctor before treating a skin rash.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will a Rash Go Away on its Own?

It depends on the cause of the rash. A rash caused by heat or allergens may go away on its own, while one caused by medication, infection, or an immune disorder may require treatment of the underlying cause.

How Long Does a Rash Last?

The duration of a rash depends on the cause. A rash may disappear after a few days or it may persist for months or years.

Can COVID-19 Cause a Rash?

Yes, COVID-19 has been noted to cause several different types of rashes as a potential side effect:

  • People with a mild case of COVID-19 may develop itchy, painful lesions on their feet or hands that resemble chilblains, an inflammatory skin condition. This rash is sometimes called COVID toes and usually lasts about 12 days.
  • Other times, small itchy blisters may appear before any other symptoms and last for about 10 days.
  • People with more severe COVID-19 infections may experience a rash or hives with raised and flat lesions. This rash usually appears at the same time as other symptoms and lasts around a week.
  • Critically ill COVID-19 patients sometimes develop a lacy, purple, bruise-like rash on their feet or hands that may extend to the legs or arms.
  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

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Skin Rash Treatment Online

Did you know you can often get a rash diagnosed and treated with an online doctor appointment? 

Through a video chat, you can show the doctor your rash and talk about your symptoms and medical history. The doctor can often figure out the cause of the rash and recommend a treatment. If a prescription medication is needed, they can electronically send a prescription to your pharmacy.

To make an online appointment with one of the trusted doctors at PlushCare, just click here or download the PlushCare App. You could get relief from your itchy skin as soon as today.


Read More About Common Causes of Skin Rashes


Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

American Academy of Dermatology Association. 10 Reasons Your Skin Itches Uncontrollably and How to Get Relief. Accessed on February, 8, 2021 at https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/itchy-skin/itch-relief/relieve-uncontrollably-itchy-skin

American Academy of Dermatology Association. COVID Toes, Rashes: How the Coronavirus can Affect Your Skin. Accessed on March 12, 2021 at
https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/coronavirus/covid-toes

American Academy of Dermatology Association. Rash 101 in Adults: When to Seek Medical Treatment. Accessed on February 8, 2021 at https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/itchy-skin/rash/rash-101

MedlinePlus. Rashes. Accessed on February 8, 2021 at https://medlineplus.gov/rashes.html

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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