Expand Window Full Screen
Other Names:
Skin Redness, Inflammation, Skin Lesion, Rubor, Skin Rash, Erythema

On this page:


A rash is an inflammation of the skin marked by a change in skin color and texture. Rashes usually stem from a variety of related medical conditions. The simple rash is known as dermatitis which literally translates to “inflammation of the skin”. Seborrheic dermatitis on the other hand is a rash that emanates itself in form of red skin patches and scaling around the mouth, nose, the eyes, eyelids and the eyebrows, and sometimes behind the ears. Rashes that develop on the scalp are called dandruff.

Return to top Return to top


Rash is not a disease itself but a symptom of other illnesses. Usually, rashes are characterized by itchy, red skin that may swell slightly or take on a “bumpy” texture. Sometimes and especially when aggravated by scratching, rashes can take a more severe turn and develop into open sores or fissures in the skin.

Return to top Return to top


Rashes can be unsightly and embarrassing, potentially causing damage to a person’s social life and self esteem. In cases where lesions or fissures have developed, the open sores left by the rash have the potential to become infected. If the infection travels further down into the skin, it is possible for Cellulitis to take effect. Cellulitis is potentially fatal for those with compromised immune systems such as those with HIV or AIDS, and people undergoing cancer treatment or taking immuno-supressant drugs.

Return to top Return to top

Possible Causes

A variety of conditions are capable of causing rashes. Reactions and side effects of various drugs and supplements (such as niacin) are also potential causes of rash. Some possible causes of rashes include:

  • Contact dermatitis caused by exposure to chemicals, dyes, detergents and allergic materials
  • Contact with latex, elastic or rubber products,
  • Contact with some plants like poison ivy, oak or sumac.
  • Some cosmetics, detergents or soaps or alcohol-based cleansers.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis (Dandruff)
  • Kawasaki disease
  • Atropic dermatitis (Eczema)
  • Neurodermatitis or lichen simplex
  • Stasis dermatitis (Varicose veins)
  • Perioral dermatitis
  • Hives
  • Psoriasis
  • Herpes zoster (Shingles in adults, chicken pox in children)
  • Insect bites
  • Impetigo
  • Hand-foot-mouth disease
  • Roseola
  • Rubella
  • Fifth Disease
  • Food allergies
  • Measles
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Allergies
  • Scarlet fever
  • Lupus erythematosus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Allergies

Stress, aging, fatigue, oily skin, harsh weather and infrequent shampooing can aggravate existing rashes.

Return to top Return to top

Treatment Options

Rashes, if accompanied with other symptoms may be signs of a more serious health problem. Call 911 if you are short of breath or if you feel tightness in your lungs or throat or if your face is swollen. Call your health care provider if you rashes accompanied with joint pain, fever, or a sore throat, or if you have streaks of redness, swelling, or very tender areas which may be result of an infection that needs medication. Call your doctor if rashes appear as a result of your new medeicines but do not change or stop any of your medications without talking to your physician.

Hydrocortisone cream is the most common and largely effective treatment for the relief of rashes. A 1% solution is readily available over the counter. Higher concentrations may be prescribed by a doctor. Calamine lotion is also used for contact dermatitis; this will help sooth the itching and burning. Antihistamines may also be administered to patients in order to reduce itching. In the cases of individuals with severe rashes, or those who are at higher risk for infections (such as HIV/AIDS patients), sedatives may be prescribed to reduce scratching, preventing potentially dangerous open sores from emerging.

In the case of periorial dermatis, antibiotics may be administered, most notably tetracycline.

Varicose veins may be treated by support hosiery. Should they become too severe, surgery is often the best option. Surgery for varicose veins is extremely successful at improving the symptoms.

For eczema, a class of drugs known as immunomodulators such as tacrolimus (Protopic) and pimecrolimus (Elidel), are known to reduce flare ups of the condition and return normal skin texture. You should apply moisturizers over your skin and try oatmeal bath products to relieve symptoms of eczema.

Seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff) is treated by a number of commercially available shampoos. Apply small amounts of anti-dandruff shampoo to patches of this scaly rash for 5-10 minutes and carefully rinse off. If the shampoo feels irritating or your skin becomes redder, stop use and seek medical assistancxe. In more severe cases, doctors can prescribe more powerful medicated shampoos. Secondary bacterial infections may be present in cases of dandruff, which may also be treated by medication.

Return to top Return to top

Home Care & Natural Remedies

In the case of contact dermatitis, rashes are easiest to treat. After finding the source of the rash (cosmetics, soaps, laundry detergents, latex, allergenic materials), terminating contact with the agent in question will allow the rash to clear up quickly. The best bet is to use hypoallergenic skin care products with no dyes or fragrances

Wet compresses can sooth the itching of a rash and help hydrate skin that has been dried out by a rash. Leaving the affected area exposed to open air may also facilitate healing. Avoid scratching, rubbing or scrubbing a rash. This may lead to lesions and fissures in the skin which may become infected.

Vitamins, particularly A, C, and E are well-known for their link to the health of the skin. Regular doses of each are important to maintaining healthy appearance and feeling in the skin. Topical vitamin E solutions and Aloe Vera are also well-known for their ability to sooth and assist in skin healing.

Oatmeal bath products have been shown to reduce swelling and itchiness from such conditions as eczema, psoriasis and shingles. Oatmeal is also an excellent moisturizer and softener of skin. Oatmeal soaps and lotions are widely available commercially

Antioxidants, such as grape seed extract and bee pollen may assist in the healing of skin.

Stress management is also an important part of skin health. Many people would be amazed to find out how much the health of the body is linked to the health of the mind. Rashes can be aggravated, or even caused by an overload of stress in a person’s life. Yoga, tai chi and exercise are all excellent methods of controlling stress in the mind and body alike.

Return to top Return to top