Rashes are common skin conditions that cause redness, itching, and inflammation of the skin. Many rashes are easily treated at home and are not life-threatening.

Contact dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin caused by direct contact with an irritant or allergen (e.g., poison ivy).

Eczema (“atopic dermatitis”) is a skin condition that makes your skin itchy and flaky. It often occurs in people who have allergies.

Symptoms

  • Rashes can be itchy, painful, or painless. They can last hours, weeks, days, or months.
  • They may be localized or widespread.
  • They can be acute and self-limiting, chronic, or intermittent (they come and they go).
  • There may be other symptoms- e.g., fever, swollen glands, and/or fatigue.

Most rashes should be evaluated by a health care provider. A topical or oral medication may be prescribed as treatment.

Symptoms of contact dermatitis include:

  • Red, swollen, painful rash
  • Skin that itches, stings, or burns
  • Dry, scaly, or crusty skin patches
  • Bumps or blisters
  • Fluid draining from blisters

Symptoms may last 1–3 weeks.

Symptoms of eczema include:

  • Intense itching
  • Small bumps
  • Redness
  • Skin that flakes off or forms scales

Treatment

For contact dermatitis:

  • Avoid scratching.
  • Use cool compresses.
  • Apply calamine lotion.

For eczema:

Use unscented thick moisturizing creams to keep your skin from getting too dry.

Take cooler and shorter showers.

Avoid sudden temperature changes.

Avoid harsh soaps, cleaning products, perfumes, and synthetic fabrics.

When to Seek Medical Attention

If any of the following occur, you should speak with your health care provider:

  • You have a lot of swelling.
  • You are not sure what caused the rash.
  • Your rash oozes pus or gives other signs of being infected.
  • Your self-care routines don’t seem to help heal the rash.
  • You are uncomfortable and losing sleep/having trouble concentrating on other things.
  • You are in pain.

Causes & Prevention

Contact dermatitis is the most common kind of rash, and is caused by contact with allergens or exposure to irritants such as soap, detergents, and cleaning products. Poison Ivy also causes a form of contact dermatitis. Doctors aren’t sure of the exact cause of eczema, but they believe it can range from genetic predisposition to stress. To avoid getting a rash:

  • Use products (detergents, soaps, perfumes) that do not irritate your skin.
  • Try not to work out in extremely hot, humid temperatures.
  • Shower and wash your hands regularly.