Skin Rashes - Causes, Types & Treatment

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Skin Rashes - Causes, Types & Treatment

Know the causes, types and best treatment to take care of your skin rash.

Skin Rashes - Causes, Types & Treatment

Image Source: Dinodia

Struggling with a red, itchy skin rash? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Skin rashes are extremely common, and in most cases go away within a day or six weeks time. There’s no textbook cause for a skin rash; it can be caused by allergies to certain foods or as a reaction to certain medicines. They could be signs of skin infection or skin’s reaction to certain chemicals in products such as sunscreens, lotions and wet wipes.

Although most skin rashes are harmless, they can be extremely itchy and unsightly. In some cases though, the rash may affect the lungs, gastrointestinal tract and other internal organs. If you have symptoms like shortness of breath, diarrhoea, nausea or muscle ache, it is best to seek immediate medical attention. 

To understand the severity of your skin rash and what type of treatment you should seek, it’s important to understand the difference between different skin rashes, and their respective symptoms. Here’s a quick guide.

How To Identify A Skin Rash? 

Any area of the body, where there’s irritation or swelling, can show signs of a skin rash. It can be as small as a pencil eraser or merge with surrounding rashes to create patches as large as a plate. Skin rashes can appear anywhere on the skin including tongue, lips, throat, face, or/and ears. In some cases they may also appear on internal organs, and may not be visible to the naked eye.

To differentiate between the different types of skin rashes, you need to keep in mind two important factors: 

  • How long has it been since the skin rash appeared
  • Are you having difficulty in breathing 

Physical and acute skin rashes usually last anywhere between a few hours, a day or less than six weeks. In such cases, the rash is clearly visible, often itchy and the skin may even sting. Acute skin rashes are typically caused by allergies to certain foods such as nuts, fish, tomatoes, milk, etc. and medications for relieving pain and high-blood pressure. Additionally, foods with certain preservatives and additives can also cause a skin rash.

It’s the chronic urticaria that requires immediate medical attention, as it can affect the lungs, gastrointestinal tract, and other internal organs. While the exact cause for chronic rashes is unknown, people with hepatitis, infections, thyroid disease or cancer are at high risk. Also, it’s possible for someone to have symptoms of a physical or/and acute skin rash along with a chronic rash.

Some medical tests that can help the doctor identify your skin rash include: Blood tests, skin biopsy, skin scraping and allergy tests. 

What Causes A Skin Rash? 

The most common cause of a skin rash is contact dermatitis. This is when the skin comes in direct contact with a foreign substance triggering an adverse reaction, and causing a rash. Beauty products, soaps, chemicals in latex, rubber or elastic, laundry detergent and poison ivy are some of the most common items which may cause contact dermatitis. Medications can also cause a rash, either as an allergic reaction, a side effect, or photosensitivity from the medicine. 

Five Common Causes For A Skin Rash Include:

  • Fleabites - Fleabites are small, itchy bumps on the skin, which may appear red on lighter skin tones, and more plum-like on darker skin tones. You will usually find these itchy bumps in clusters on the lower legs and feet, immediately after you’ve been bit by fleas.
    Treatment - Anti-itch cream

  • Ringworm - Ringworm is a skin infection that creates red, circular, scaly patches that are extremely itchy. These patches can be pink or red on lighter skin tones, and grey or brown on darker skin tones. Ringworm is a contagious skin rash that can be spread by touching an infected animal or object, as well as skin-to-skin contact.
    Treatment - Antifungal medication 

  • Eczema - Eczema is the umbrella term for different types of skin inflammation. The most common type is called atopic dermatitis which can cause dry, itchy skin along with rashes on the face, hands and feet as well as inside the elbows and behind the knees. If the rash is on the scalp, it may also cause hair fall. It’s best to avoid scratching the rash as it can turn red, itch and swell even more.
    Treatment - Medicines, light therapy and skin creams

  • Psoriasis - Psoriasis creates sharply defined, scaly and silvery skin patches usually on the soles of the feet, knee, lower back, elbows, or/ and scalp. The rash patches look darker than the surrounding skin or even purple on darker skin tones. For some the rash may itch and sometimes even become painful, while for others it can be asymptomatic.
    Treatment - Topical ointments, light therapy and medication

  • Lupus - Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease that creates a butterfly-shaped rash that starts from one end of the cheek to the other, crossing over the nose. The rash can be bright red on lighter skin tones and red, brown, or a darker hue on darker skin tones. The rash can worsen with sun exposure, and can also affect mucous membrane and other organs.
    Treatment - Anti-inflammatories, steroids and sun protection

In children, certain rashes are a result of  diseases such as chickenpox, measles, scarlet fever, fifth disease rash (typically appears on the cheek), impetigo and hand, foot and mouth disease, all of which are caused by viral infections. 

Key Takeaway

Skin rashes can be caused by a variety of influences, and look different on different skin tones. Currently, there are 22 potential causes which are linked to a skin rash. Each of these carry different symptoms and severity. Most acute rashes can be treated with gentle skin care and by avoiding allergens and skin irritants. Over-the-counter medicines including hydrocortisone cream (1 percent) also help soothe rash symptoms. 

However, if the skin rash is increasingly painful and involves swelling of face and limbs, repeated vomiting, lasts longer than six weeks, or/and accompanies respiratory problems, go to the hospital immediately.

Disclaimer: The above content is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of a qualified physician or doctor. The Company does not vouch for or endorse any of the above content, and disclaims any and all warranties, express or implied, relating to the same.