10 Possible Itchy Rash Causes
The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced itchy rash. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.
Non-specific dermatitis (skin inflammation)
Nonspecific dermatitis, or contact dermatitis, simply means inflammation of the skin from many different causes.
Most nonspecific dermatitis is caused by skin contact with a substance that provokes a reaction, which could be anything from plants to soap to jewelry to fabrics. Some may be due to an autoimmune condition, where the body's immune system attacks itself.
Risk factors include a family or personal history of allergies, asthma, or other condition which weakens the immune system; or constant contact with metals, plant life, or chemicals.
Symptoms commonly include red, swollen skin rash with itching, blistering, or oozing, which may become painful and infected.
Dermatitis itself is not contagious but can interfere with quality of life. A medical provider can help with managing the symptoms.
Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and sometimes skin biopsy and patch testing.
Treatment involves using protective measures if the substances cannot be avoided; making nutritional improvements to strengthen the immune system; using corticosteroid or other creams; and phototherapy.
Top Symptoms: red rash, itchy rash, painful rash
Symptoms that always occur with non-specific dermatitis (skin inflammation): red rash
Non-specific skin rash
Common causes of rash are contact dermatitis, sun damage, or allergic reaction. However, many rashes are a symptom of disease and should not be ignored.
Nonspecific rashes have widely varied symptoms:
- May be flat and smooth; slightly raised or with swollen welts; clean and dry; or blistered and oozing.
May spread widely over the body, or be confined to one site.
- May appear after eating certain foods; or after exposure to certain plants or to insect stings or bites.
Other symptoms may be present, including pain anywhere in the body; nausea; vomiting; fever; headache; or abdominal pain and upset.
Diagnosis is made through patient history and physical examination to determine the exact type, location, and history of the rash, along with any other symptoms that may be present.
Those symptoms will be investigated with blood tests or imaging. Skin swabs may be taken and tested. After the process has ruled out as many causes as possible, a course of treatment can be determined.
Top Symptoms: rash
Symptoms that always occur with non-specific skin rash: rash
Urgency: Wait and watch
Hives, or urticaria, are flat red welts that can appear anywhere on the skin and usually itch. Hives often occur as an allergic reaction to something eaten or something that has contacted the skin. Foods, medicines, and plants are common causes, but sun exposure, stress, infections, and autoimmune diseases have also been known to cause hives.
Symptoms include an itchy, stinging pink rash of slightly swollen skin. The rash may wax and wane in severity. Acute hives typically resolve within six weeks, but chronic hives can persist for months or years.
Hives often resolve on their own, especially in children. Otherwise, treatment for acute hives involves oral antihistamine medications to help relieve the itching and stinging. Chronic hives that do not improve with antihistamines may be treated additionally with corticosteroids, antibiotics, and other stronger medicines.
Top Symptoms: red or pink, rough patch of skin, itchy rash, curved rash, insect bite or sting, hives, red swollen bumps or patches with a pale center
Symptoms that always occur with hives: red or pink, rough patch of skin
Irritant contact dermatitis
Irritant contact dermatitis means a skin reaction that is caused by directly touching an irritating substance, and not by an infectious agent such as a bacteria or virus.
Common causes are soap, bleach, cleaning agents, chemicals, and even water. Almost any substance can cause it with prolonged exposure. Contact dermatitis is not contagious.
Anyone who works with an irritating substance can contract the condition. Mechanics, beauticians, housekeepers, restaurant workers, and health care providers are all susceptible.
Symptoms include skin that feels swollen, stiff, and dry, and becomes cracked and blistered with painful open sores.
A medical provider can give the best advice on how to heal the skin and avoid further irritation. Self-treatment can make the problem worse if the wrong creams or ointments are used.
Diagnosis is made through patient history, to find out what substances the patient comes into contact with, and through physical examination of the damaged skin.
Treatment involves avoiding the irritating substance if possible. Otherwise, the person can use petroleum jelly on the hands underneath cotton and then rubber gloves.
Top Symptoms: rash with well-defined border, itchy rash, red or pink, rough patch of skin, painful rash, red rash
Symptoms that always occur with irritant contact dermatitis: rash with well-defined border
Symptoms that never occur with irritant contact dermatitis: fever, black-colored skin changes, brown-colored skin changes, blue-colored skin changes
Eczema (atopic dermatitis)
Eczema (atopic dermatitis) is a non-contagious chronic skin condition that produces an itchy rash. It is caused by a genetic condition that affects the skin's ability to protect itself from bacteria and allergens. The most susceptible are those with a family history of atopic dermatitis, asthma, or hay fever.
Infants will have a dry, scaly, itchy rash on the scalp, forehead, and cheeks. Older children will have the rash in the creases of elbows, knees, and buttocks.
Without treatment, a child may have trouble sleeping due to the intense itching. Constant scratching may cause skin infections.
Eczema cannot be cured, but it can be controlled through prescribed medications, skin care, stress management, and treatment of food allergies. People with eczema often have allergies to milk, nuts, and shellfish. Keeping the skin clean and moisturized helps prevent flares.
Top Symptoms: trouble sleeping, feeling itchy or tingling all over, dry skin, scalp itchiness, flexor surface rash
Symptoms that never occur with eczema (atopic dermatitis): fever
Urgency: Phone call or in-person visit
Pityriasis rosea is a common skin rash and is thought to be due to a type of herpes virus. It is not contagious and is not sexually transmitted. Most susceptible are teenagers and young adults.
Symptoms include a single large scaly patch somewhere on the body. In the next 7 to 14 days similar oval pink patches on the arms, legs, and trunk appear, sometimes in a pattern of lines.
There may also be itching, fatigue, and body aches along with the rash. Anything that raises body temperature, such as exercising or a hot bath, may worsen the rash.
The condition may last for a few weeks and is normally gone after three to four months. Sometimes flat brown spots are left as the rash fades.
Pityriasis rosea can resemble other conditions, so getting an accurate diagnosis is important. Diagnosis is made through blood tests and skin cultures.
Treatment involves topical medications for itching, as well as antiviral and anti-inflammatory medications by mouth to aid healing. Cool baths and reduced exercise will also help.
Top Symptoms: rash, itchy rash, curved rash, rough patch with red spots around it
Symptoms that always occur with pityriasis rosea: rash
Symptoms that never occur with pityriasis rosea: blue-colored skin changes, black-colored skin changes, brown-colored skin changes
Allergic reaction to poison ivy/oak/sumac
Plants of the Toxicodendron genus are found throughout the continental United States, and exposure to these plants is a leading cause of contact dermititis, a medical term used to describe irritation and itching of the skin.
Top Symptoms: rash, itchy rash, red rash, skin changes on arm, stinging or burning rash
Symptoms that always occur with allergic reaction to poison ivy/oak/sumac: itchy rash, rash
Symptoms that never occur with allergic reaction to poison ivy/oak/sumac: fever
Psoriasis causes an overgrowth of surface skin cells, creating a red, scaly, itchy, and painful rash.
It is believed to be an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to attack its own healthy skin cells. It may be genetic in origin but triggered by anything that further strains the immune system, such as infections, skin injury, alcohol consumption, obesity, smoking, and stress.
Symptoms may come and go in cycles lasting weeks or months. They include red patches of thickened skin, sometimes with gray-white scales; dry, cracked, bleeding skin; stiff and swollen joints; and thickened, misshapen nails.
It is important to see a medical provider for care, because psoriasis can interfere with quality of life. It is associated with higher risk of arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions.
Treatment involves different combinations of topical medications, oral medications, and phototherapy with natural or artificial light. Lifestyle changes such as improved diet, quitting smoking, and managing stress are very helpful in many cases.
Top Symptoms: itchy rash, red or pink, rough patch of skin, rash with well-defined border, painful rash, scaly rash
Symptoms that never occur with psoriasis: fever, black-colored skin changes, brown-colored skin changes, blue-colored skin changes
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Non-specific insect bite
Insect bites are very common. The saliva given off during the bit can sometimes cause dangerous allergic reactions that affect your ability to breathe. However, the vast majority of insect bites have no adverse effects besides the inflammation where the bite occurred.
Mosquito bites are bites from flying insects that feed on the blood of animals, including humans. Mosquito bites are more common during the summer or in warmer climates, at dawn or dusk, and near bodies of water.
In most cases, mosquito bites will cause a local skin reaction that gets better on its own over days or weeks. Less commonly, children may develop recurrent itchy bumps called papular urticaria. In rare cases, some people may develop severe allergic reactions to mosquito bites. In addition, mosquitoes may carry viruses that cause encephalitis, Chikungunya Fever, and Zika virus.
The diagnosis is made by history and exam. Treatment options include washing the bite and using ice or cold packs or topical medications to relieve itching. More severe reactions may require oral allergy medications or epinephrine injection.
Top Symptoms: mosquito bite
Symptoms that always occur with mosquito bite: mosquito bite
Symptoms that never occur with mosquito bite: fever, muscle aches, vomiting, loss of appetite
Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Itchy Rash
To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:
- Any fever today or during the last week?
- Are there bumps on your rash?
- Is your rash raised or rough when you run your hand over the area of skin?
- What color is the skin change?
The above questions are also covered by our A.I. Health Assistant.
If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions
Take a quiz to find out why you're having itchy rash
Itchy Rash Symptom Checker Statistics
People who have experienced itchy rash have also experienced:
- 5% Feeling Itchy Or Tingling All Over
- 4% Vaginal Itch Or Burning
- 4% Leg Skin Changes
People who have experienced itchy rash were most often matched with:
- 50% Non-Specific Dermatitis (Skin Inflammation)
- 50% Hives
People who have experienced itchy rash had symptoms persist for:
- 29% Over a month
- 27% Less than a week
- 25% Less than a day
Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).