Read below about rash, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your rash from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Rash Symptoms

So you look like your favorite dotted Swiss comforter and it's two weeks before you meet up with your first ranked eHarmony match online, whose flying cross country to meet you.

Great. Now what? What is causing this sudden rash and how can you get rid of it fast?

Well getting rid of a rash, like getting rid of any disease or condition requires you address underlying causes.

Maybe you took a walk in the woods yesterday and woke up in the middle of the night, covered with the oozing blisters of poison ivy. Maybe you didn't know you were allergic to strawberries, until, after enjoying a strawberry shortcake dessert and you suddenly broke out in hives.

The symptoms of rashes are quite obvious. Think the measles or poison ivy outbreaks.

Rashes are eruptions of pimples and blisters that can appear anywhere on the body. They can appear where a plant you're allergic to, like poison ivy, touched you on your body or all over the body, if you eat or get something you're allergic to, for example.

Rashes cause blisters, bumps, and pimples of all shapes and sizes and they typically white, pink or red and appear:

  • Flat (even with the skin) or raised (elevated from the skin)
  • Smooth or scaly
  • Discolored
  • Dry or oozing
  • Red, inflamed, Itchy, and painful
  • without any particular sensation at all

Rash symptoms can be either:

  • Acute: lasting only a short time
  • Chronic: lingering for months or years
  • Benign: causing nothing more than worry and discomfort, or an indication of a serious underlying condition, such as cancer

Rash Causes Overview

Rashes are typically caused by a reaction to some kind of pathogen—something that acts as a toxic invader to the body because you are allergic to it. Because it is toxic to your body, your immune system goes to work on it as it would any invader, launching an inflammatory response and setting your fighter cells into motion, mobilizing them for a big attack.

Rashes can also be caused by fever and infection, be it a viral, bacterial or fungal infection that causes an inflammatory reaction in the body and the skin, which is what causes the appearance of a rash.

The most common causes of rashes:

  • Inflammation can cause rashes: The itchy, scaly rash associated with eczema is caused by an underlying inflammatory condition. Inflammatory rashes, such as chemical burns, may also result from external factors – such as skin contact with a (usually chemical) irritant, including household cleaning products.
  • Allergies can cause rashes: You probably won't know you have an allergy until the first time you have an allergic reaction. It could be something you ate, something you touched, or even a medication you were prescribed. Your body's response is the same—itchy welts appearing anywhere on your skin. Hives can last for minutes, or for as long as several weeks.
  • Non-specific dermatitis, skin inflammation and non-specific skin rash are catch-all terms for a rash without a diagnosed cause. These conditions might be caused by an infection, by inflammation or by an allergic reaction.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Rash

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced rash. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Non - Specific Skin Rash

    A rash is an area of irritated or swollen skin. Often, rashes are unidentifiable and some variation of normal. For example, scratching one's arm causes it to turn red (which is caused by mast cells releasing chemicals into the local area), but that's completely normal.

    1-2 days

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    rash
    Symptoms that always occur with non-specific skin rash:
    rash
    Urgency:
    Wait and watch
  2. 2.Non - Specific Dermatitis (Skin Inflammation)

    Dermatitis is the inflammation ("-itis") of the skin ("derma" is a layer of the skin). It can be caused by any number of causes, from allergies to infections to autoimmune issues. Dermatitis of Normal Variation (also called, "NOS") means that all of those other causes of your rash have been ruled out. This is very common.

    1-2 days

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    red rash, itchy rash, painful rash
    Symptoms that always occur with non-specific dermatitis (skin inflammation):
    red rash
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  3. 3.Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)

    Eczema is a form of skin inflammation that causes skin to be dry, itchy, red, and irritated.

    This is a long-term, recurring condition but symptoms are manageable with care.

    Rarity:
    Common
    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
  4. 4.Pityriasis Rosea

    Pityriasis rosea is a common skin condition with no known cause. It is not contagious and does not usually lead to any dangerous complications. It most often appears as a larger "mother" patch which comes first, surrounded by smaller "daughter" patches which appear soon after.

    Pityriasis Rosea will go away on its own within 2-8 weeks

    Rarity:
    Rare
    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
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

    Rash Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having rash.

    Rash Quiz
  5. 5.Psoriasis

    Psoriasis is a skin disease that causes itchy or sore patches of thick, red skin with silvery scales. The patches mostly affect the elbows, knees, scalp, back, face, palms and feet.

    Psoriasis is a chronic condition. Often flare-ups come and go. In some cases, psoriasis goes away over time.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    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
  6. 6.Keratoacanthoma (a Common, Benign Skin Change)

    Keratoacanthomas are rapidly growing lesions that occur primarily on sun-exposed skin in older persons. The majority of lesions involve the face and upper extremities, although they frequently occur on the lower extremities, especially in women.

    Resolves with treatment

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    itchy rash, rash on sun-exposed areas, red skin bump larger than 1/2 cm in diameter, skin-colored rash, skin-colored, large (>1/2 cm) bump
    Symptoms that never occur with keratoacanthoma (a common, benign skin change):
    fever
    Urgency:
    Wait and watch
  7. 7.Hives

    Urticaria are itchy, temporary rashes that rarely become swollen. It is often referred to as "hives."

    1-2 days

    Rarity:
    Common
    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
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  8. 8.Irritant Contact Dermatitis

    Contact dermatitis is a condition in which the skin becomes red, sore, or inflamed after direct contact with a substance. This condition most often affects skin of the hands, and may occur after repeated and prolonged exposure to substances such as water, detergents (soaps, bleach), solvents (such as gasoline), acids, powders, dust, and soil. The onset of the skin reaction is usually within 48 hours of coming in contact with the substance.

    1-2 days.

    Rarity:
    Common
    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
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  9. 9.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.

    With treatment, symptoms should resolve from a few days to two weeks.

    Rarity:
    Common
    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
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment

Rash Treatments and Relief

Many rashes can be treated at home. There is an old adage in dermatology: "If it's dry, wet it; if it's wet, dry it." This is not an absolute rule set in stone, but if you have a rash that does not seem to be causing other problems, and you are not ready to see a health care provider, this is your best approach.

For example, if you have a wet type of rash, apply nothing – or try topical cortisone creams (available over-the-counter). These can also be used on dry rashes to relieve itching and prevent secondary infections which can be caused by scratching. Cold, wet compresses provide can also promote healing and provide relief from itch.

If you have a very dry rash, try natural emollient with compounds such as royal jelly in them. Royal jelly is all natural and is particularly healing on rashes.

The best approach to oozing, weeping, wet, or blistery rashes is to keep the area dry by exposing it to air and to avoid covering the area with clothing that doesn't "breathe." Applying witch hazel, apple cider vinegar or a baking soda paste to the blisters with speed the drying out process.

Seek immediate medical care if you develop a rash and also have:

If itching is interfering with sleep, Benadryl, an anti-histamine, can help with itching and even help you finally get some much-needed sleep after all that sleep-robbing itching.

FAQs About Rash

Here are some frequently asked questions about rash.

What causes rashes?

Rashes are caused by local inflammation of the skin and are caused by multiple inflammation pathways. For example seborrheic dermatitis (a rash involving yellow, oily flakes on the face or hair) is caused by overgrowth of a normal skin yeast. Contact dermatitis is caused by a "hypersensitivity" or allergic reaction of the skin to certain chemicals. Specifically, the "detective" cells of the skin present a non-dangerous chemical (e.g. cotton, nickel, wool) to the "central booking" cell CD4, CD8 cells which activate the immune system against the cells.

What causes rash on neck?

A rash on the neck can be caused by an exposure to something across the neck. Common causes of neck rashes include contact with metals like nickel included in some jewelry, contact with animal fur or wool, as well as excessive exposure to sunlight (sunburn). There is no specific cause of a rash on the neck that cannot cause a rash on the face, abdomen, legs, or chest. It is important to recall what substances your neck has been exposed to (e.g. scarves, hair dyes, shirt collars, or sunlight) that might cause a rash along the neck.

What causes a heat rash?

A heat rash can occur if a person is sweating often and can look like a series of closely spaced bumps or pimples. It is caused by an inability of sweat to evaporate and an increased sensitivity to sweat on the skin which can be innate. It can be avoided by staying cool and dry or taking cool baths and wearing loose clothes that allow your skin to breathe.

What kind of rash do I have?

If you would like to have your rash diagnosed, you should visit a health professional. You should take a photograph of your rash, or, if you no not have access to a camera, take down the following information. What color is the rash? What area(s) does it affect? Is it continuous, spotty, or blotchy? Is it pinpoint? Is it raised or flat? Are there any other skin changes around the rash (e.g. skin flaking, bleeding, pus)? Does it hurt? Do you have any other bodily symptoms?

What types of skin rashes itch?

Many different types of rashes can itch. Some disorders are related only to the skin, others are related to the function of the liver, kidneys, thyroid, and connective tissue. The key to determining type of rash lies in how long the rash has been taking place, where it is, what it looks like, what makes it better or worse, and what other medical conditions an individual has.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Rash

  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Is your rash raised or rough when you run your hand over the area of skin?
  • Q.What color is the skin change?
  • Q.Are there bumps on your rash?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our rash symptom checker to find out more.

Rash Quiz

Rash Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced rash have also experienced:

    • 8% Feeling Itchy or Tingling All Over
    • 4% Dry Skin
    • 2% Fatigue
  • People who have experienced rash had symptoms persist for:

    • 29% Over a Month
    • 27% Less Than a Week
    • 25% Less Than a Day
  • People who have experienced rash were most often matched with:

    • 66% Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)
    • 33% Non - Specific Dermatitis (Skin Inflammation)
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having rash

Rash Quiz