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Learn about your 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.

Rash Checker

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Your Rash May Also be Known as:
Abnormal skin
Skin change
Skin color change
Skin disease
Skin issues
Sore

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.

Top 9 Rash Causes

  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.

    At this time, you do not need treatment for this rash. If it worsens, you may need to consult a physician.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    rash
    Symptoms that always occur with non-specific skin rash:
    rash
    Urgency:
    Wait and watch
  2. 2.Shingles (Herpes Zoster)

    Shingles (herpes zoster) is a disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus - the same virus that causes chickenpox. Early signs of shingles include burning or shooting pain and tingling or itching, usually on one side of the body or face. Rashes or blisters appear anywhere from one to 14 days later. If shingles appears on the face, it may affect vision or hearing.

    You should go to a retail clinic or your primary care physician to be treated for shingles. Most common treatments involve pain killers and prescription antiviral medicines.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, dizziness, diarrhea, headache, weight loss
    Symptoms that always occur with shingles (herpes zoster):
    grouped rash, rash
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Mononucleosis Infection

    EBV Mononucleosis is a clinical syndrome characterized by fever, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes.

    You should visit your primary care physician within the next 24 hours. Diagnosis is confirmed by looking for antibodies against EBV. Treatment involves supportive care (hydration, antipyretics, and analgesics, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen). Aspirin should not be given to children because of the possibility of Reye syndrome. It is also recommended that you do not do any strenuous physical activity and contact sports in the initial 3 to 4 weeks of illness due to the potential for splenic rupture.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, abdominal pain (stomach ache), cough
    Symptoms that never occur with mononucleosis infection:
    rectal bleeding
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.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.

    Firstly, to prevent the irritation from getting worse, wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water. Over-the-counter antihistamines such as Benadryl can help with the swelling and itching. Topical corticosteroids applied directly to the rash can also help relieve some of your symptoms

    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 Checker

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

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  5. 5.Strep Throat Requiring Throat Swab

    Strep throat is a bacterial throat infection that can make the throat feel sore and scratchy. Only a small portion of sore throats are the result of strep throat. And, if you do not show enough signs of a true strep throat, testing may be needed before treatment is begun.

    You should visit your primary care physician within the next 24 hours, where a diagnosis can be made via a "rapid antigen test" (it's a throat swab). Treatment with simple antibiotics would be given only if the test is positive. It is important to get treatment, however, because of the possibility of getting a disease called "rheumatic fever" after the strep throat infection.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, nausea, sore throat, fever, rash
    Symptoms that always occur with strep throat requiring throat swab:
    sore throat
    Symptoms that never occur with strep throat requiring throat swab:
    general weakness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.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.

    If the rash itches, an antihistamine such as Benadryl can help relieve symptoms. Otherwise, Pityriasis rosea does not require any treatment.

    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
  7. 7.Hand - Foot - and - Mouth Disease

    Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a mild, contagious viral infection common in young children. It is characterized by sores in the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet.

    You can safely treat this condition on your own by using a topical oral anesthetic to relieve the pain of mouth sores. Over-the-counter pain medications other than aspirin, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) may help relieve general discomfort.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    loss of appetite, cough, fever, sore throat, new headache
    Symptoms that always occur with hand-foot-and-mouth disease:
    spontaneous skin changes
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  8. 8.Sea Bather's Skin Eruption

    Sea Bather's Eruption is a skin reaction common amongst people swimming in coastal waters. Microscopic jellyfish larvae can become trapped between the skin and the swimsuit. When the swimmer leaves the water, these larvae die and sting the skin.

    Clean the skin with soap and water to remove any remaining jellyfish larvae. Over-the-counter antihistamines such as Benadryl can help to relieve the itching and redness. Topical corticosteroids may also be effective.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    rash, itchy rash, red-colored skin changes, small blister, constant skin changes
    Symptoms that always occur with sea bather's skin eruption:
    rash
    Symptoms that never occur with sea bather's skin eruption:
    fever
    Urgency:
    Phone call or in-person visit
  9. 9.Mononucleosis Infection

    EBV Mononucleosis is a clinical syndrome characterized by fever, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes.

    You should visit your primary care physician within the next 24 hours. Diagnosis is confirmed by looking for antibodies against EBV. Treatment involves supportive care (hydration, antipyretics, and analgesics, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen). Aspirin should not be given to children because of the possibility of Reye syndrome. It is also recommended that you do not do any strenuous physical activity and contact sports in the initial 3 to 4 weeks of illness due to the potential for splenic rupture.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, abdominal pain (stomach ache), cough
    Symptoms that never occur with mononucleosis infection:
    rectal bleeding
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

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:
  • Q.Is your rash raised or rough when you run your hand over the area of skin?
  • Q.Does the rash have a clearly defined border?

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

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Rash Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced rash have also experienced:

    • 10% Feeling Itchy or Tingling All Over
    • 4% Fatigue
    • 4% Dry Skin
  • People who have experienced rash had symptoms persist for:

    • 35% Less Than a Day
    • 25% Over a Month
    • 23% Less Than a Week
  • People who have experienced rash were most often matched with:

    • 48% Non - Specific Skin Rash

Rash Checker

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

Take a quiz