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rash symptoms: important things to know.

rash symptoms: important things to know.

With advice from Dr. Cynthia E. Collins.

An itchy rash can be worrisome, especially when it appears out of nowhere. With so many possible causes, figuring out mystery rash symptoms isn’t always easy.

Even if you know precisely why it’s there – that vine you touched earlier turned out to be poison ivy after all – a rash is more than irritating. It can be painful and scary. And if you don’t know what’s causing the bumps, blisters, or swelling, you can make a rash worse with the wrong treatment.

MDLIVE board-certified doctors care for thousands of patients with rashes each year. Dr. Cynthia E. Collins, MDLIVE Clinical Medical Director, shares her tips on how to get rid of rashes in a rush.

No matter why you have a rash, you want quick relief. Dr. Collins explains the differences between common rashes and how to get the fastest relief from the comfort of home.

What causes a rash?

Itchy rashes can erupt for many reasons. Some of the most common causes are:

  • poisonous plants

    (poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac)

  • allergies

  • medication reactions

  • viruses

  • insect bites

  • heat

  • adverse reactions to dyed products, latex, or other allergens

  • intertrigo (friction rash)

Some rashes, like contact dermatitis from an irritant, aren’t contagious. Other types, like viral rashes or poison oak, can spread to others. And some can be dangerous if left untreated.

Common symptoms of a rash:

Rash symptoms can often look the same regardless of the cause. A rash is a visual cue that you have inflammation, whether your skin is red, dry, scaly, welted, blotchy, blistery, or itchy. But certain types of rashes cause telltale symptoms1:

redness, severe itching, swelling, bumps, and blisters

itchy, red, cracked, rough skin

red, swollen skin, hives, intense itching, burning

small, stinging red lumps or clear, itchy liquid-filled bumps

red bumps, blisters, or hives

intensely itchy, red blisters

patches of splotchy red spots

red or
reddish-brown rash, raw, itchy, cracked skin

Dr. Collins’ Perspective

“If you aren’t sure why you’re experiencing rash symptoms, getting help from a doctor when symptoms first appear can ensure it gets treated properly. Rashes need to be cared for differently than chronic skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, and certain infections. Specialist or dermatology care is better for ongoing conditions. Getting care quickly for an unexpected rash can help relieve irritating symptoms and determine if your symptoms signify something more serious.”

What treatments are available for rashes?

Depending on the type of rash you have, a doctor can determine what type of prescription or over-the-counter medication is best for your rash, or if home remedies can help:

  • Corticosteroid cream or ointment
  • Antibiotics
  • Prednisone
  • Antihistamines
  • Calamine lotion
  • Medicated shampoos, if rash is on the scalp
  • Menthol creams
  • Oatmeal bath in lukewarm water
  • Cool, moist compresses
  • Avoid allergens that can cause rashes (detergents, overly hot baths, cleaning products) Anything can become an allergen for some people, including these
    5 uncommon allergies.
  • Humidifier
  • Moisturize with a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic cream or lotion.

How can you get help without going to a doctor’s office?

If you can’t identify a mystery rash or just need relief fast, a doctor can assess and help relieve your symptoms. MDLIVE offers reliable 24/7 health care by phone or video, so you can talk to a board-certified doctor in minutes and get a prescription sent to your preferred pharmacy if needed.

Dr. Collins’ Perspective –
When to have an MDLIVE Urgent Care appointment.

“Some rashes will clear up on their own, while others require medical care. If you’re unsure, or your rash isn’t going away, have an appointment with an MDLIVE doctor if:

  • Your rash lasts longer than a week
  • Your rash doesn’t seem to be improving or is getting worse
  • Your rash is spreading to other parts of your body
  • Your skin starts to blister
  • Your skin is red, swelling, or oozing
  • Your rash is painful, and you need relief3

If you’re experiencing other severe symptoms* alongside your rash, like fever, pain, trouble breathing, or severe blistering, seek emergency medical attention.”

Bryan Gutierrez