There are many different kinds of rashes out there, from annoying but mild all the way to potentially life-threatening.
While only a doctor can diagnose what kind of rash you have, these pictures and descriptions can help you decide how urgently you need to see a doctor about your rash based on how it looks and what other symptoms you are experiencing.
Should you need to see a doctor now, click below to visit with one of our online doctors. We take most insurance and the average patient pays just $22 for an appointment.
Here are pictures and descriptions of 21 different rash types.
[caption: Attribution: Courtesy Colm Anderson via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5]
Cellulitis is an infection caused by a bacteria, typically streptococcus or staphylococcus, entering through a crack or break in your skin. It may also enter through areas of dry, flaky, or swollen skin.
Cellulitis causes red, painful, tender, hot, swollen skin and may or may not be accompanied by oozing, blisters, red spots, or skin dimpling. It may spread quickly. While it typically affects the lower legs, it can also occur in the face, arms, and other areas.
A severe infection may cause fever, chills, and red streaks. The infection can spread to the lymph nodes and bloodstream, so cellulitis requires immediate medical attention because it can become life-threatening.
If you have symptoms of cellulitis with a fever or a rash that is changing rapidly, seek medical attention immediately.
Chickenpox is a virus that causes itchy, red, fluid-filled blisters all over the body accompanied by a fever, body aches, a sore throat, and loss of appetite 10 to 21 days after exposure to the virus. It is extremely contagious until every blister has crusted over and it usually lasts for five to 10 days.
Children afflicted with chickenpox should be kept out of school to avoid spreading it to other children.
Contact your doctor if the rash spreads to one or both eyes; the rash gets very red, warm or tender; the rash is accompanied by dizziness, confusion, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, tremors, loss of muscle coordination, worsening cough, vomiting, stiff neck, or a fever higher than 102° F; or if anyone in the household is immune deficient or younger than 6 months old.
Today, there is a safe, effective vaccine that can prevent chickenpox, and the number of hospitalizations due to chickenpox is down drastically.
3. Contact Dermatitis
Contact dermatitis is a rash that appears within a few hours to a few days after your skin comes into contact with an allergen or irritant. The rash has a visible border where your skin came into contact with the offending substance. Your skin will be itchy, red, raw, or scaly and may have blisters that weep, ooze, or become crusty. While it isn’t contagious or life-threatening, it can make you pretty miserable.
You should try to identify what caused your reaction and avoid it in the future to prevent future occurrences of contact dermatitis. It may take two to four weeks after getting rid of the item that caused the contact dermatitis for the rash to clear up. Cool, wet compresses and anti-itch creams can help relieve symptoms in the meantime.
4. Diaper Rash
A diaper rash is a common form of inflamed skin that occurs on areas of the body which are in contact with a diaper. The skin may look wet, red, or irritated and may feel warm to the touch. Afflicted babies will often fuss during a diaper change.
It’s a common rash for infants and toddlers to suffer, although it can afflict anybody who wears a diaper, and is usually caused by spending too much time in a dirty diaper, although it can also be caused by chafing and skin sensitivity.
Diaper rash can usually be treated at home by air drying, changing diapers more frequently, and using ointments. Take your baby to the doctor if the rash:
-Is severe or unusual
-Bleeds, itches, or oozes
-Is accompanied by a fever
5. Drug Allergy
A drug allergy causes a rash that may occur several days or even weeks after taking a medication. It causes a mild, itchy, red rash and may be accompanied by a fever, an upset stomach, and small red or purple spots on the skin.
Potentially life-threatening symptoms can include hives, a racing heart, swelling, itching, and trouble breathing.
If you have symptoms of a drug allergic reaction, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, looks like white or yellow scaly patches of skin that might flake off. Hair loss may occur within the rash, and the area may be itchy, red, oily, or greasy. Eczema typically affects people who suffer from asthma or allergies. While it is more common in children, it can happen to people of any age.
While there is no cure for eczema, self-care measures such as avoiding harsh soaps, moisturizing regularly, and applying medicated creams or ointments can relieve itching and prevent new outbreaks.
7. Fifth Disease
Fifth disease, also known as “slapped cheek disease,” is a viral infection that causes a bright red round rash on the cheeks, upper arms, and legs as well as a headache, fatigue, low fever, sore throat, runny nose, diarrhea, or nausea.
Children are more likely to develop this lacy-patterned rash, which may be easier to see after a hot bath or shower. While typically mild in children, fifth disease can be more severe for pregnant women or anyone with a compromised immune system. Fifth disease in pregnant women, for example, can cause life-threatening anemia for the unborn baby.
8. Flea Bites
[Caption: Attribution: Maslesha via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0]
Symptoms of flea bites appear immediately after being bitten by a flea. The itchy red bump is typically surrounded by a halo and often appears in clusters on the lower legs and feet.
Fleas reproduce quickly, especially in homes with pets, and they can be difficult to get rid of, occasionally requiring the assistance of a professional exterminator. Flea bites will get better without treatment, but only eliminating fleas from your home can prevent future bites. Fleas can’t fly, but if they were human, they could jump over skyscrapers in one leap.
9. Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease
[Caption: Attribution: KlatschmohnAcker via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0]
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a mild, contagious viral infection which typically affects children under the age of five. It may cause red spots that are either flat or raised on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and possibly the butt or genital area, along with painful, red blisters in the mouth and on the tongue and gums.
A fever is often the first symptom of hand, foot, and mouth disease, appearing three to six days after contact with the virus. Sores in the mouth appear a day or two later, followed by a rash on the hands and feet a day or two after that.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is typically mild. Your child should see a doctor if sores in the mouth prevent drinking or if symptoms worsen after a few days.
[Caption: Attribution: James Heilman, MD via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0]
Impetigo is a contagious bacterial infection that is common in babies and children. An irritating rash with fluid-filled blisters that pop easily and form a honey-colored crust is often located around the nose, mouth, and chin.
Antibiotics are typically recommended to help prevent the spread of impetigo to others. Children should be kept home from school until no longer contagious, which is typically about 24 hours after starting the antibiotic.
11. Kawasaki Disease
[Caption: Attribution :Dong Soo Kim, derivative work: Natr (talk) via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0]
Kawasaki disease typically affects children under the age of five. It can cause a red, swollen “strawberry” tongue; a high fever; swollen, red palms and soles of the feet; swollen lymph nodes; and bloodshot eyes.
While it typically improves on its own, it can lead to an aneurysm of the coronary artery as a complication, which can be fatal.
If you or a loved one are showing symptoms of Kawasaki Disease, seek urgent medical attention.
Symptoms of measles, a viral respiratory infection, include a fever, sore throat, red or watery eyes, loss of appetite, cough, and a runny nose with a red rash that spreads from the face down the body several days after the rest of the symptoms begin. Tiny red spots with blue-white centers may also appear inside the mouth.
While measles used to be common, it can almost always be prevented by receiving the vaccine. Measles can be very serious and still kills about 100,000 people a year, mostly children under the age of five.
[Caption: Attribution: User:The Wednesday Island (of the English Wikipedia) via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0]
Psoriasis is a process that speeds up the life cycle of skin cells, which causes scaly, silvery, sharply-defined skin patches which are typically located on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back. The patches are itchy and may be painful.
There is no cure for psoriasis, and it is a chronic problem that may come and go. Treatment revolves around trying to slow down the life cycle of the skin cells. Lifestyle changes such as moisturizing, quitting smoking, and managing stress can help.
Ringworm gets its name from the distinctive shape of the rash and has nothing to do with worms. It is caused by a fungus and creates itchy circular, scaly rashes with a raised border and healthy skin in the middle of the ring.
The same fungus that causes ringworm also causes jock itch and athlete’s foot. Antifungal creams or medications are required to treat ringworm.
[Caption: Attribution: tomasz przechlewski via Flickr, CC BY 2.0]
Rosacea is a chronic skin problem with no known cause that leads to recurring cycles of fading and relapse, which may be triggered by spicy food, alcohol, sunlight, stress, and the intestinal bacteria Helicobacter pylori. There are four different subtypes, each with its own set of symptoms.
Common symptoms of rosacea include facial flushing or redness; raised, red bumps; dry skin; and skin sensitivity.
[Caption: Attribution: Steschke via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0]
Scabies is a contagious, itchy skin disease caused by an infestation of the microscopic Sarcoptes scabei mite, which lives in and burrows into your skin, where it lays eggs. It may take four to six weeks for symptoms to appear.
Symptoms include a very itchy rash that may be pimply, scaly, or made up of tiny blisters as well as raised white or flesh-colored lines.
17. Scarlet Fever
Scarlet fever is an infection due to group A Streptococcus bacteria that involves a bright red rash which covers the entire body (apart from the hands and feet) and shows up during or soon after a bout of strep throat. The red bumps of the rash are so rough that they may feel like sandpaper. Scarlet fever will also cause a bright red tongue.
Scarlet fever is most common in children from five to 15. Antibiotics are usually effective, but left untreated, scarlet fever can result in more-serious conditions that affect the heart, kidneys, and other parts of the body.
18. Seborrheic Eczema
[Caption: Attribution:Kein Trinkwasser via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0]
Seborrheic eczema or dermatitis is a type of eczema that commonly affects the scalp, although it can affect the ears, nose or mouth. It appears as white or yellow scaly patches of skin that flake off or cause stubborn dandruff. Affected areas of the skin may be red, itchy, greasy, or oily and may have hair loss. It’s known as crib cap when it happens to babies.
Seborrheic dermatitis may clear up without treatment, but it may also resist treatment or keep coming back. Cleaning the area daily with a gentle soap or shampoo can reduce oiliness and dead skin buildup.
[Caption: Attribution: melvil via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0]
Shingles causes a rash involving clusters of fluid-filled blisters that break easily and weep fluid. The rash is extremely painful and may burn, tingle, or itch, even if there are no blisters present. The rash occurs in a striped pattern commonly on the torso but occasionally on other parts of the body including the face. The rash may be accompanied by a low fever, chills, a headache, or fatigue.
The varicella-zoster virus causes chickenpox, then lies dormant. It may reactivate as shingles many years later.
20. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
[Caption: Attribution: Medicalpal via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0]
SRE is an autoimmune disease which displays various symptoms and affects multiple body systems and organs. SRE is often accompanied by a classic butterfly-shaped face rash that crosses from cheek to cheek over the nose which may appear or get worse in the sun.
Other symptoms may include a wide array of skin and mucous membrane symptoms that range from rashes to ulcers.
21. Tick Bite
A tick bite can cause pain or swelling in the affected area with a rash, burning sensation, blisters, or difficulty breathing. Ticks may stay attached for a long time, and bites typically don’t appear in clusters.
The greater concern with tick bites is that they can cause a wide variety of diseases including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
If you get bitten by a tick, remove it immediately, being careful to get the entire head out and not just the body, and contact your healthcare provider for assistance.
What causes rashes?
Rashes can have a variety of different causes. Common causes of rashes include:
- Coming into contact with something that causes an allergic or otherwise adverse reaction, such as soap, laundry detergent, beauty products, latex, rubber, elastic, dye in clothing, or poisonous plants.
* Bug bites
* Autoimmune diseases
* Fungal infections
* Skin irritation
* Bacterial infections
* Infestation of mites
* Viral infections
Taking care of rashes at home
Many mild rashes can be treated at home. To help relieve discomfort and promote healing, try the following:
- Use mild, unscented soaps and cleansers
- Wash your skin and hair with lukewarm water instead of hot
- Pat rashes dry instead of rubbing
- Avoid covering rashes when possible. They heal better when they can breathe.
- Stop using new products that may have triggered the rash
- Avoid scratching – it can lead to potentially-serious infections
- Itchy rashes can be soothed by hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion
- Take an oatmeal bath
- Over the counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin) can help relieve minor pain associated with a rash.
Contact your doctor if your rash is accompanied by:
* Joint pain * A sore throat * A slight fever above 100.4° F * Red streaks or tenderness * A recent tick or animal bite
Go to the hospital immediately if your rash is accompanied by:
* Increasing pain or discoloration of the rash * Tightness or itching of the throat * Trouble breathing * Swelling of your face or limbs * A high fever * Confusion * Dizziness * Severe head or neck pain * Vomiting or diarrhea
What you can expect during an appointment exploring the type and cause of a rash
Your doctor will do a physical exam, look at the rash, and ask you about:
* The rash
* Your medical history
* Your diet
* What products or medications you have recently started using
* Your hygiene
Your doctor may also:
* Take your temperature
* Order tests like an allergy test or complete blood count
* Perform a skin biopsy, which involves taking a small sample of skin tissue for analysis
* Refer you to a dermatologist or other specialist for further evaluation
While only a medical professional can diagnose the cause of your rash, hopefully, you now have more information about what’s causing you to itch. The top online doctors at PlushCare are available if you want to get a medical professional’s opinion on your rash.