There are few things more bothersome than having a rash. If you develop one, you’ll need to know what it is and what’s causing it to properly treat it. Here are some of the most common skin rashes you may encounter and when you should seek medical attention for symptoms.
Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus and leads to an itchy rash that looks like small, fluid-filled blisters. The rash is highly contagious to those who haven’t had the virus or those who haven’t been vaccinated against it. The rash itself may not show up for 10-21 days after exposure to the virus and can last 5-10 days total. The rash begins as raised pink or red bumps, then becomes fluid-filled (which can break and leak), followed by crusting and scabbing over before healing. However, it is not uncommon to see the rash and new bumps being present in all three of the stages simultaneously.
Heat rash, also known as miliaria, forms when blocked pores trap sweat under your skin. Symptoms range from mild to severe with bumps and blisters tending to form where skin folds or clothing causes friction. Infants are more likely to develop heat rash on the neck, shoulders and chest. The good thing is that heat rash is usually self-diagnoseable and goes away on its own quickly, especially once the skin is cooled. Use ice packs, cold compresses or even get inside an air-conditioned building for fast relief. Calamine lotion can also be used to soothe any itching that occurs.
Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema is most common in children, but can occur at any age. This chronic condition causes red, itchy and scaly skin. Eczema is often self-diagnosed and, although there’s not a cure, this condition should warrant a trip to the doctor, as people with eczema may have co-existing asthma, hay fever (also called allergic rhinitis) or have a family history of allergies. Additionally, your doctor may want to perform tests to rule out other skin disorders. Treatments vary depending on severity of the eczema, but if moisturizing your skin regularly and other home remedies don’t work, prescription options may be necessary.
Psoriasis is a chronic condition that cycles through flare-ups and remissions. It is thought to be caused by an immune system problem that causes skin cells to rapidly regenerate, which in turn causes red, itchy, dry and scaly patches of skin to form. The most commonly affected areas on the body are the knees, elbows, trunk and scalp. There are several types of psoriasis, each with different causes and triggers. This disorder should be diagnosed and treated by a dermatologist.
Also known as herpes zoster, shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus – the same virus that causes chickenpox. After having chickenpox, the virus sits inactive but may reactivate as shingles years or even decades later. It tends to affect older adults and causes a painful rash that most often presents as a stripe of blisters that wraps around the torso. The good news is that a highly effective vaccine against shingles does exist which can dramatically lower your chance of getting this condition. Anyone who has had chickenpox can get shingles so it is important to talk with your doctor to find out if getting the shingles vaccine is right for you.
Contact dermatitis is a broad category for rashes that are caused by direct contact with or an allergic reaction to a substance. This may include plants, jewelry, soap, detergents and cosmetics. The rash is typically self-diagnosed and described as red, itchy, and scaly bumps and blisters that fades away once contact with the substance ceases.
Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease
Hand, foot and mouth disease is a common viral infection that mostly affects young children. It is highly contagious and causes a number of symptoms including fever, sore throat, blisters in the mouth and a red rash without itching on the hands and feet. It is usually self-treatable and resolves in a matter of days to weeks.
When to seek medical attention
Many common rashes are often self-diagnosed and can, for the most part, be observed and treated at home. However, if rashes become painful, infected, rapidly spread, remain persistent or are accompanied by a fever, seeking help from a medical professional is warranted. Contact your doctor right away if you experience any of these symptoms along with your rash.
How EEH can help manage and treat rashes
Edward-Elmhurst Health’s team of primary care providers, dermatologists and other providers can help quickly diagnose and treat common rashes. Make an appointment online or call us to find a doctor at 630-527-6363.