A to Z Symptom: Rash
More to Know
A rash is an area (or areas) of reddened or discolored, irritated, bumpy, painful, or swollen skin. Usually, rashes aren't harmful or dangerous.
Many things can cause rashes, including medical conditions, allergies, and infections. Some are caused by bacteria (such as impetigo), viruses (chickenpox, cold sores, and measles), fungi (ringworm), and skin parasites (lice, bedbugs, and scabies). Often, the specific cause is unknown.
Rashes can be dry and scaly, red and itchy, wet and warm, crusty and blistered, or flat and painless. Some rashes form right away and others can take several days to appear.
Common causes and types of rashes include:
- diaper rash
- erythema toxicum
- Lyme disease
- molluscum contagiosum
- pityriasis rosea
- poison ivy
- tinea (ringworm, athlete's foot, jock itch)
Treatment, when needed, will depend on the cause of the rash.
For rashes that may be caused by an allergen, such as hives, the doctor will try to find out which food, substance, medicine, or insect caused it so that it can be avoided in the future. Many fungal skin infections (like ringworm and athlete's foot) can be treated with over-the-counter topical antifungal creams and sprays.
Itchiness often can be managed with home care like oatmeal baths, cool compresses, anti-itch creams, or calamine lotion. More severe cases might be treated with an antihistamine (either as a liquid or pill) to decrease itching and redness.
Contact a doctor if the person seems ill, or if the rash is accompanied by fever or lasts more than a week
Keep in Mind
While many rashes can be itchy, try not to scratch. Scratching can make a rash take longer to heal and can lead to infection or scarring.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
|Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The CDC (the national public health institute of the United States) promotes health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.|
|American Lyme Disease Foundation This organization is dedicated to advancing the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and control of Lyme disease.|
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|American Academy of Dermatology Provides up-to-date information on the treatment and management of disorders of the skin, hair, and nails.|
|National Eczema Association This site contains information about eczema, dermatitis, and sensitive skin.|
|American Academy of Family Physicians This site, operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provides information on family physicians and health care, a directory of family physicians, and resources on health conditions.|
|Poison Ivy This site includes a wide selection of poison ivy photos to help people identify the plant. The photos show different varieties of the plant and how the plant looks during different seasons of the year.|
|Evaluate Your Child's Lyme Disease Risk Does the threat of Lyme disease make you think your kids would be safer in your living room than in the great outdoors? Find out how to evaluate a child's Lyme disease risk.|
|First Aid: Poison Ivy/Oak/Sumac Mild rashes from poison ivy, oak, and sumac plants can be treated at home. But severe and widespread rashes require medical treatment.|
|First Aid: Rashes Sometimes rashes are only a minor annoyance. Other times, they are more serious and require medical treatment. Here's what to do if your child has a rash.|
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2014 KidsHealth® All rights reserved.
Images provided by iStock, Getty Images, Corbis, Veer, Science Photo Library, Science Source Images, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com