What is this rash and what do I do?

August 26, 2020 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

Skin rashes come in many forms and can be caused by a variety of factors, including heat, allergens, immune system disorders and medications.

Some may go away within a few days, others may take weeks or longer. For some, an over-the-counter ointment may do the trick. Others may require a doctor’s visit and medication.

Some common skin rashes include:

  • Contact dermatitis. This skin rash is caused by direct contact with an irritating substance or a substance that causes an allergic reaction. In the case of non-allergic reactions, the rash may be caused by a chemical or cleaning product. Irritant dermatitis often produces a dry, scaly, non-itchy rash. Allergic dermatitis can prompt an itchy rash with blisters or bumps. Some common causes of allergic dermatitis include nickel (found in jewelry, metal hooks or buttons on clothing), poison ivy or latex. The best treatment for rashes caused by contact dermatitis is to avoid the offending substance. Medicated cream can help ease symptoms.
  • Eczema (atopic dermatitis). This chronic condition can make skin itchy and red. It can appear in patches on your arms, legs, hands, upper body and neck. While this is a chronic condition, it often subsides for a period of time then flares up. People with eczema should avoid harsh soaps and use lotion regularly. Medicated anti-itch creams may also ease symptoms.
  • Drug rash. With certain medications, a rash can occur as a side effect. The rash, which usually appears within the first week of taking a medication, will start as red spots and spread throughout the body. If you notice this, contact your doctor to determine what you should do.
  • Heat rash. As the name implies, this type of rash is more common in hot, humid weather and occurs when the flow of sweat is obstructed — often due to hot weather or overdressing. You may experience prickly heat, small red bumps that have a stinging or pricking sensation, or clear, fluid-filled bumps on your skin. These types of rashes will often disappear when the skin cools. A cool compress or bath may help as well. You can avoid this type of rash by wearing loose fitting clothing and avoiding excessive heat or humidity.
  • Intertrigo. This type of skin rash is caused by skin-to-skin contact, often in warm, moist areas of the body (such as in the folds of the skin of the abdomen, in the groin area, under the breasts or between the toes). Intertrigo causes inflammation of the skin and may cause the affected area to be painful. Wearing loose-fitting clothing and using powder to help keep the area dry may help. Intertrigo can also cause a bacterial or fungal infection in the affected area. If this happens, you may need medication.
  • Psoriasis. This condition occurs when skin cells rapidly build up creating patches of rough, scaly skin. Like eczema, patients with psoriasis may experience periods of flare-ups followed by the condition subsiding. While psoriasis may be nothing more than a mild nuisance for some, for others the condition can be more severe and cause other issues such as arthritis. Your doctor may prescribe topical medications, light therapy or other medications to lessen the symptoms.

While most skin rashes are not life-threatening, they could be a symptom of something more serious.

You should contact your doctor about your skin rash if:

  • It covers your body.
  • You have a fever.
  • The rash comes on suddenly and spreads quickly.
  • Your rash begins to blister.
  • The rash is painful.
  • The rash becomes infected.

With mandates requiring the use of face masks due to COVID-19, you may experience some skin irritations from your face mask. Your face mask should fit firmly around your face, but this can cause friction and skin irritations around the area where the masks rests (particularly on the bridge of your nose or around your chin or behind your ears).

If you experience some irritation, try using zinc oxide, which is also used in diaper rash creams and acts as an anti-inflammatory. You can spread a thin layer of the cream behind your ears, on the bridge of your nose or under your chin to help prevent skin irritation from the mask. For sensitive skin, be sure to wash your face, pat it dry and apply a skin moisturizer before wearing your mask. Experts also suggest regularly washing cloth face masks with soap and hot water —and dry thoroughly — to keep them clean.

If you already have a skin condition, be sure to take your medications regularly to avoid further flare-ups from face mask use. If you notice a new rash, contact your physician.

Book your next doctor’s appointment online or download the MyEEHealthTM mobile app.

Need care now? When your medical needs can’t wait, our board-certified providers are ready to treat your non-emergency urgencies. Find a convenient care location and check wait times.

We’re offering Video Visits for the care you need today, from the comfort of home. Learn more about Video Visits.

For updates on our planning and response efforts as we work to stop the spread of COVID-19, please check EEHealth.org/coronavirus.

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