Rashes in babies and children
Many things can cause a rash in babies and children, and they're often nothing to worry about.
As a parent, you may know if your child seems seriously unwell and should trust your own judgement.
Rash with a high temperature
Rash on cheeks with high temperature
A rash on 1 or both cheeks plus a high temperature, runny nose, sore throat and headache may be slapped cheek syndrome. After a few days, a rash may appear on their body.
Slapped cheek syndrome usually gets better on its own within 3 weeks. Children's paracetamol or ibuprofen can bring down a high temperature.
Blisters on hands and feet plus mouth ulcers
Hand, foot and mouth disease is a common childhood illness that causes blisters on the hands and feet, and ulcers in the mouth. It also causes a high temperature and your child may have a sore throat.
It usually gets better in 7 to 10 days. Children's paracetamol can bring down a high temperature.
Rash on the face and body
Scarlet fever causes a rash that looks like pinpricks and feels rough, like sandpaper. The rash can be red, but this may be less noticeable on brown and black skin.
Scarlet fever usually starts with a white coating on the tongue, a sore throat, headache and a high temperature.
See a GP immediately if you think your child has scarlet fever. It's treated with antibiotics.
Measles usually starts with the same symptoms as a cold, plus a high temperature, sore eyes that are sensitive to light and grey spots inside the cheeks.
After a few days, a spotty rash appears on the head or neck and spreads to the rest of the body. The spots can appear red or brown, but they may be less noticeable on brown and black skin.
Call a GP if you think your child has measles.
Rash with itching
Rash caused by heat
Heat and sweat can cause raised spots or patches known as prickly heat or heat rash. The rash can look red, but it may be less noticeable on brown or black skin.
It itches, so you may notice your child scratching.
Heat rash usually gets better on its own after a few days.
Scaly or cracked skin
Skin that's itchy, dry and cracked may be atopic eczema. It's common behind the knees, elbows and neck, but it can appear anywhere.
The affected area may change colour. On white skin, the area may look pink or red. On brown and black skin, it may look grey or purple, or darker than surrounding skin.
Speak to a GP if you think your child has eczema.
Raised, itchy spots or patches
Hives causes a raised, itchy rash. It can look red, but this may be less noticeable on brown and black skin.
The rash can be a sign of an allergic reaction to things like a sting, medicine or food.
It usually gets better within a few days.
Speak to a GP if your child keeps getting this type of rash. They may be allergic to something.
Call 999 if there's swelling around their mouth.
Itchy round rash
An itchy, dry, ring-shaped patch of skin may be ringworm. The patch may look red, pink, silver, or darker than surrounding skin.
Ask a pharmacist for a cream or lotion to treat ringworm.
Speak to a GP if it appears on your child's scalp, as it may need to be treated with prescription medicine.
Small spots and blisters
Chickenpox starts with small, itchy spots. The spots may look red, pink, the same colour or darker than surrounding skin, depending on your child's skin tone. At the start, the spots may be harder to see on brown and black skin.
The spots quickly form blisters and then scabs.
Some children have a few spots, while others have them all over their body.
Itchy sores or blisters
Red sores or blisters that burst and leave crusty, golden-brown patches could be impetigo. The redness may be harder to see on brown and black skin.
The sores or blisters can be itchy, get bigger or spread to other parts of the body. They often appear on the face, hands or around the middle of the body.
Speak to a GP if you think your child may have impetigo.
Tiny and very itchy spots
Scabies is caused by tiny mites that burrow into the skin.
Ask a pharmacist for a cream or lotion to treat scabies. Everyone in the household needs to be treated at the same time – even if they do not have symptoms.
You should take your baby to a GP for advice if they are under 2 months old.
Rash without fever or itching
Tiny spots on a baby's face
Very small spots, called milia, often appear on a baby's face when they're a few days old.
Milia may appear white or yellow, depending on your baby's skin tone.
They usually go away within a few weeks and do not need treatment.
Red, yellow and white spots in babies
Raised red, yellow and white spots (erythema toxicum) can appear on babies when they're born. They usually appear on the face, body, upper arms and thighs.
The rash can disappear and reappear.
It should get better in a few weeks without treatment.
Pink or skin-coloured spots
Small, firm, raised spots that can appear anywhere on the body are common in children and known as molluscum contagiosum.
The spots can be the same colour as surrounding skin, darker than surrounding skin, or pink.
Treatment is not recommended because the spots get better on their own, although it can take more than a year.
Red patches on a baby's bottom
With nappy rash your baby's skin may look sore and feel hot. There may be red patches on your baby's bottom or around the whole nappy area.
There may be spots or blisters. It can make your child feel uncomfortable or distressed.
You can buy cream from a pharmacy to help.
Pimples on the cheeks, nose and forehead
Baby acne can appear within a month after birth but usually gets better after a few weeks or months.
Washing your baby's face with water and a mild moisturiser can help.
Do not use acne medicines intended for older children and adults.
Yellow, scaly patches on the scalp
Cradle cap is when a baby gets yellow or white, greasy, scaly patches on their scalp.
It usually gets better without treatment in a few weeks or months.
Gently washing your baby's hair and scalp with baby shampoo may help prevent more patches.
Page last reviewed: 11 June 2021
Next review due: 11 June 2024
How to Identify 10 Common Skin Rashes
Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin disorder that is chronic and inflammatory. It can be triggered by stress, medications, infection, skin injury, and environmental triggers like the sun. Around 1% to 8% of the global population is affected by this skin condition.
Psoriasis occurs when the immune system inappropriately attacks its own skin cells, triggering inflammation and the hyperproduction of cells. The rash is formed when new skin cells are produced faster than the old ones can be shed.
Plaque psoriasis is the most common form of psoriasis. Symptoms include:
- Red patches of skin covered with thick, silvery scales
- Itching, burning, and/or soreness
- Skin flaking
- Cracked, dry skin that can bleed when scratched
Plaque psoriasis is most commonly seen on the elbows and knees, as well as the scalp. Other types of psoriasis include pustular psoriasis (characterized by pus-filled lesions) and guttate psoriasis (seen mainly in children).
Psoriasis can often be diagnosed by its appearance but occasionally requires a skin biopsy for confirmation. Because there are no blood tests that can definitively diagnose psoriasis, it may be necessary to rule out other similar skin conditions, such as seborrheic dermatitis, lichen planus, pityriasis, or squamous cell skin cancer.
The treatment varies by the severity of the outbreak and may include topical steroids, immunosuppressants, and UV light therapy. Psoriasis can sometimes resolve spontaneously without treatment and recur just as suddenly.
Treating Psoriasis and Preventing Flares
Pityriasis rosea is a relatively common skin condition that causes a temporary rash of raised red scaly patches on the body.
It can affect anyone, but it's more common in older children and young adults (aged 10 to 35).
Symptoms of pityriasis rosea
Some people feel unwell for a few days before they get the rash, with symptoms such as a headache, high temperature and joint pain.
The herald patch
A single pink or red oval patch of scaly skin, called the "herald patch", usually appears at least 2 days before a more widespread rash develops.
The herald patch ranges in size from 2cm to 10cm. It can appear on your tummy, chest, back or neck, and less often on your face or scalp, or near your genitals.
Up to 2 weeks after the herald patch appears, a more widespread rash develops, which may continue to spread over the following 2 to 6 weeks.
This rash is small, raised, scaly patches that usually range in size up to 1.5cm. Most people get many patches on their chest, back, tummy, neck, upper arms and upper thighs. The face is not usually affected.
The rash is not painful, but it can be itchy.
In light-skinned people the patches are usually a pinkish-red. In dark-skinned people the patches can sometimes be grey, dark brown or black.
Both the herald patch and rash usually last for 2 to 12 weeks, although they can last for up to 5 months.
After the rash has gone, you may have some darker or lighter areas of skin. These should return to normal within a few months and will not leave permanent scarring.
When to see a GP
See a GP if you have an unexplained rash. They'll usually be able to confirm whether it's pityriasis rosea, or another skin condition such as eczema, psoriasis or ringworm.
If the GP is uncertain, they may refer you to a skin specialist (dermatologist).
Treating pityriasis rosea
Pityriasis rosea usually gets better without treatment within 12 weeks. Treatment is not needed unless you experience discomfort and itching.
Possible treatments for pityriasis rosea include:
- emollients – creams that moisturise and soothe the skin. Some emollients can be used as soap, and are often recommended, because normal soap can irritate the rash. You can buy these over the counter from most pharmacists
- steroid creams or ointments – such as hydrocortisone and betamethasone cream. These are prescribed by a GP and can reduce swelling and relieve itching
- antihistamines – if you're having trouble sleeping because of the itching, a GP may prescribe an antihistamine that will make you feel sleepy, such as hydroxyzine or chlorphenamine
- UVB light therapy – if other treatments do not work, you may be referred for UVB light therapy
What causes pityriasis rosea?
It's not known what causes pityriasis rosea. One theory is that the rash may be caused by a viral infection.
Pityriasis rosea is not contagious and cannot be spread to other people through physical contact.
Pityriasis versicolor is another common skin condition that can be confused with pityriasis rosea, as the rash may look similar.
But there are important differences between these 2 conditions. Pityriasis versicolor is caused by a yeast infection and can be treated with antifungal medicines, including antifungal creams and antifungal shampoos.
Page last reviewed: 13 March 2020
Next review due: 13 March 2023
Understanding what causes stress rash and how to treat it
Understanding what causes stress rash and how to treat it
Americans are among the most stressed people in the world, according to a 2018 Gallup poll. While stress may be something we feel emotionally, it can have a significant impact on our physical health. In addition to high blood pressure, headaches and fatigue, skin rashes are common stress symptoms.
What causes stress rash?
Stress rash often affects people who have underlying skin conditions, such as eczema, rosacea or allergies caused by environmental triggers, such as pollen, animal dander or certain foods. Some people even develop rashes from sunlight or weather changes. Still, even without an underlying condition, you can still develop stress rash.
“When you’re feeling stress, your body releases chemicals that can cause inflammation and make your skin even more sensitive,” says Erin Lester, MD, a family medicine physician at Scripps Coastal Medical Center in Solana Beach. “This can trigger a flare-up.”
What do stress rashes look like?
Stress rashes often appear as raised red bumps called hives. They can affect any part of the body, but often a stress rash is on the face, neck, chest or arms. Hives may range from tiny dots to large welts and may form in clusters. They may be itchy or cause a burning or tingling sensation.
Stress rash treatment
Stress rash is rarely a serious problem, but if you have difficulty breathing or your throat or lips swell up, call 911 immediately. Your reaction may be caused by something else that could be life-threatening, and you need emergency care.
Fortunately, most stress-induced rashes go away on their own within a few days; however, they can come back. Some may persist for as long as six weeks.
Avoid scratching the rash, which can make it worse and may even spread bacteria through tiny scrapes in the skin.
Home treatments, such as cool compresses and ice packs, can help relieve swelling and itching (but do not apply ice directly to the skin). Over-the-counter antihistamines, such as Benadryl and Zyrtec, can also help relieve symptoms. Read the labels carefully as some may cause drowsiness, or ask your pharmacist for a recommendation.
If your rash does not subside within a week, or your symptoms get worse, call your doctor. Depending on your provider, you may not need to make an office visit. Skin rashes often can be diagnosed during a video visit from your mobile phone or tablet.
“If your rash doesn’t respond to home treatment, we may prescribe a stronger antihistamine or a cortisone cream to knock down the inflammation and help your skin heal,” says Dr. Lester.
Preventing stress rash
Stress is simply the body’s reaction to a situation that feels overwhelming or creates anxiety. If you develop stress rash, it may be a warning sign that you need to reduce sources of stress in your life, whether they are related to your job, relationships, finances or other factors. Even if you can’t change your situation, you can learn to manage how you react to stressful triggers. Once you have more control over stress in your life, you may experience fewer or milder rashes.
Try these tips to help manage stress:
- Exercise or practice yoga, tai chi or meditation.
- Seek out a friend for a walk or coffee.
- Do something fun with your family.
- Listen to music or read a book.
- Play an audiobook or podcast.
In some cases, what you think is a stress rash may actually be caused by something else, such as eczema or insect bites. Contact dermatitis, which is a rash caused by contact with something you are allergic to, such as a chemical or fabric, may be another possibility.
If you seem to get frequent stress rashes, it’s a good idea to see your doctor. Together, you can determine the cause and develop a plan to reduce your outbreaks.
Pictures neck rash
What’s that rash?: with pictures
Have you ever Googled, ‘what’s that rash?’ You may have been looking for yourself, your child or a ‘friend’.
Chances are you’ve had a rash or two in your lifetime. What is a rash? A rash is a temporary flare-up on the skin. It usually appears as red spots or reddening. It can sometimes be dry, scaly or itchy.
Your skin is actually covered in trillions of bugs, these are called microorganisms and together they make up your skin microbiome. When they are balanced and happy so is your skin. Rash conditions like eczema and dermatitis are caused when your skin microbiome is out of balance. Find out more about your skin microbiome by listening to our podcast: My Amazing Body.
There are many types of rashes, including eczema, hives, and heat rash. Some rashes can be temporary, or they might be a chronic condition. Sometimes rashes can be a sign of a serious illness, like measles, so it’s important you seek medical advice if you are concerned about a rash.
We’ve listed some common rashes, their symptoms and how you can treat them. The rashes we mention usually occur on your face and sometimes other parts of the body. If you’ve got a rash ‘downstairs’ it could be a symptom of an STI and we recommend you talk with your GP or get a sexual health check.
Eczema is a skin condition that affects children and adults. It is more common in children, in fact, 66 percent of eczema sufferers are diagnosed before aged two. They will usually grow out of eczema by adolescence. It can also be called atopic eczema, atopic dermatitis and allergic eczema.
We don’t really know exactly what causes eczema, but we do know that it can sometimes be genetic. One gene linked to eczema is called filaggrin and people who get eczema often have a defect which reduces their skins ability to repair itself after injury. It also allows allergens to enter the deeper layers of the skin. People who have eczema may also have other conditions like hay fever or asthma.
Some triggers that cause and make eczema worse include:
- dry skin
- scratching the affected area
- viral or bacterial infections
- chemicals from swimming pools
- sand, especially from sandpits
- some types of carpet or grass
- animals or house dust mites
- allergens that you can breathe in, such as pollen
- artificial colours and preservatives
- perfumes, soap and chemicals
- woollen or synthetic fabrics
- heat or very hot rooms
Eczema causes very itchy, scaly, red patches of skin, usually on cheeks, in elbow creases and behind the knees.
Your doctor will be able to diagnose you with eczema and advise a suitable treatment plan. The most effect way to relieve symptoms and treat eczema is to keep the skin well moisturised by using a non-perfumed moisturiser on your skin every day. It’s also best to avoid itching the area to reduce breaking the skin which can increase the chance of infection.
The skin has special cells that have an immune function. Eczema causes a breakdown in the skin’s barrier function. Sometimes, children with eczema are more prone to developing allergies. Foreign proteins make their way through the damaged skin and activate the immune cells.
For this reason, it is important not to use creams containing food ingredients. e.g. oats, goats’ milk, almond oil. Using creams containing food ingredients can cause an allergy to that food to be developed.
Contact dermatitis is inflammation of the skin. There are two types of contact dermatitis, which occurs when your skin touches something that makes it red and inflamed. Allergic contact dermatitis is when your skin becomes inflamed after coming into contact with an allergen, like plants. If your skin is exposed to an irritant, like cosmetics, for a long period of time this is called irritant contact dermatitis.
Contact dermatitis can cause the skin to become:
The rash should clear slowly if you avoid the substance that is causing the irritation or reaction. You should see a doctor if your rash is uncomfortable or doesn’t clear up. They will be able to assist you with treatment and help find the allergen or irritant.
Heat rash often occurs during summer and is usually harmless. It’s also known as prickly heat or miliaria. Heat rash is caused by a blockage and inflammation of your sweat ducts.
Symptoms can last 2-3 days and can include, tiny red spots or blisters, an itchy or prickling sensation, redness or mild swelling of the area. It is more common in sweaty areas of the body. The armpits, back, under the breast, chest, groin or crooks of your elbows and knees are all areas that can be affected.
To reduce the risk of heat rash you should stay cool during the hotter months, by drinking water regularly, wearing light clothing and staying out of the heat. Heat rash can sometimes be the first sign of a heat-related conditions, like heat stroke or exhaustion, which require urgent attention.
Heat rash will usually go away by itself. You should see you doctor if the rash gets worse or lasts more than 3 days. If the blisters become infected with yellow or green pus, if you have a fever or are feeling generally unwell you should see your doctor.
Hives, also known as urticaria or nettle rash, is a skin rash that occurs when the body produces histamine. Histamine is a protein your body uses to fight off viruses and bacteria but when you get hives, your body might be reacting to an irritant.
Hives symptoms include a raised bumpy red rash. The bumps can sometimes look more like your normal skin colour and can be quite itchy. The trigger for hives is sometimes unknown but can be caused by an allergic reaction, medication or an infection.
It can sometime take days or weeks for hives to develop but true hives can last just a couple of hours or up to 6 weeks. You should see your doctor is the rash lasts longer that 6 weeks or if you are concerned.
Hives are usually harmless, but sometimes they might be a sign of anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis requires urgent medical attention. If you or your child is having difficulty breathing, seems to have a swollen tongue or throat or has collapsed, phone Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance immediately.
Rosacea, or acne rosacea, is a non-contagious, common skin inflammation that only affects the face. It causes redness, flushing and sometime pimples on your face, though it is not the same as acne.
The first signs of rosacea can include frequent flushing or blushing of the skin and it usually appears between the ages of 30 and 50 years old. The cause is unknown and there is no cure, and unfortunately symptoms get worse as you age.
Symptoms of rosacea:
- frequent blushing, flushing or redness on your cheek, nose, chin or forehead
- persistent redness that looks similar to a sunburn that does not go away
- small visible blood vessels on your face
- bumps or pimples on your face that might sting or burn
- red or irritated eyes or swollen eyelids
Some people’s rosacea can also be triggered by exposure to sun, hot weather, spicy foods, exercise or certain medications and skincare products. Talk to your doctor or a skin specialist for recommendations to control the symptoms.
If you are concerned about a rash or it is associated with a severe headache, neck stiffness, fever or vomiting and nausea you should see your doctor or call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for medical advice.
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Last updated: 9 September 2020
Your skin is your body’s largest organ, so it’s not surprising that plenty can (and does) go wrong with it. Skin rashes are a common issue that can impact pretty much anyone, no matter your age, hygiene, or medical history.
“A rash is essentially inflammation in the skin that can be caused by either an external exposure or an internal factor,” says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Basically, a rash is your skin’s way of telling you something is up, whether you’ve been exposed to an irritant or you have an underlying medical condition.
The unifying feature of all rashes is inflammation, Dr. Zeichner explains. That inflammation could be minor or could greatly impact the color, texture, or feeling of your skin—it all depends on the type and severity of your rash. (Note: Some of the chronic skin conditions listed below, like acne and rosacea, might not be considered rashes by all dermatologists, but their symptoms and treatments are similar enough to other rashes to include them.)
What causes skin rashes?
Again, when it comes to the root causes of rashes, they tend to fall into two main categories: outside-in and inside-out, explains Dr. Zeichner. A few distinct features make their identification and treatment unique.
Outside-in rashes, like contact dermatitis and ringworm, are due to direct exposure to an outside irritant, allergen, or organism. Irritants (substances like household cleaners and chemicals that can affect anyone) and allergens (substances like latex and poison ivy that only affect those with specific allergies) can both trigger rashes such as contact dermatitis. Organisms living on the skin, meanwhile, cause conditions like ringworm and scabies.
Inside-out rashes stem from genetics, allergies, or infections. Genetic rashes, like eczema or psoriasis, appear because your skin or immune system is triggered to produce them. Allergic rashes, like a drug rash, occur when you ingest an allergen, including certain foods or medications. And viral infections, like measles, can also result in rashes.
Many of these rashes can be resolved with proper treatment, except in the case of inside-out rashes caused by genetics. “Our bodies are genetically programmed to work a certain way, and while we can keep symptoms under control, we don’t necessarily have a permanent cure,” Dr. Zeichner explains.
How to identify common skin rashes and their symptoms
Size and location are the first things to notice when trying to identify a rash. “Something that’s localized with distinct borders will typically be an outside-in job,” Dr. Zeichner says, while inside-out ones “can lead to red, angry rashes throughout the entire body.” The next clues to look for are the shape, color, and texture of the rash.
“If your over-the-counter products aren’t working, you’re suffering from a rash for a week or so, and it’s not improving, you should touch base with a board-certified dermatologist,” Dr. Zeichner says. “This is what we are trained to do, and treatment depends on proper diagnosis.” Be sure to tell your doctor how long you’ve had the rash and any other symptoms you’ve been experiencing (such as a fever or difficulty breathing).
Ahead, you’ll find pictures of common skin rashes, plus symptoms to lookout for. It’s important to note that rashes can look different depending on your skin tone. Some conditions might not cause discoloration on darker skin so if you’re unsure, see a dermatologist who can make the proper diagnosis.
What it looks like: Medically known as atopic dermatitis, eczema is an umbrella term for a range of skin conditions characterized by red, splotchy, flaky, dry, cracked, or crusty skin that can emit clear fluid when scratched. It’s usually clustered around the insides of elbows and knees, but can appear anywhere on the skin.
Other symptoms to note: Eczema is usually itchy and most common in young people, although many adults also have eczema-prone skin. An estimated 30% of Americans, mostly children and adolescents, suffer from eczema, per the National Institutes of Health. Cold, dry weather and overexposure to water can exacerbate the condition, according to Dr. Zeichner.
What it looks like: Contact dermatitis has the same symptoms mentioned above, and can be a red rash that appears scaly or blistered, depending on its cause and severity. This rash often has a distinct border.
Other symptoms to note: Contact dermatitis appears following exposure to an irritant or allergen, and it’s the most common rash caused by external factors, Dr. Zeichner says. (This can include certain chemicals, acids, botanicals, metals, and more.) Allergens usually cause a shiny, blistered, itchy rash, while irritants tend to cause a dry, scaly, less itchy rash. It can appear hours to days after exposure.
What it looks like: Ringworm is a common skin infection caused by a fungus. It gets its name from its circular rash, which is often red, swollen, and cracked.
Other symptoms to note: This rash is itchy and can cause hair loss when it occurs on the scalp. The same fungus also causes athlete’s foot and jock itch. Ringworm is contagious, so avoid touching people and pets or sharing objects like towels with others during flareups.
What it looks like: Rosacea causes redness and thick skin on the face, usually clustered in the center. Easy flushing, a stinging sensation, and small, pus-filled pimples are other common signs of the condition, which is often confused with acne breakouts.
Other symptoms to note: With rosacea, skin might feel rough, bumpy, or warm to the touch. Redness usually appears on the forehead, nose, cheeks, and chin. Red, itchy, sensitive eyes are also associated with the condition. Triggers include “spicy food, hot beverages, alcohol, extremes in temperature, and physical and emotional stress,” Dr. Zeichner explains.
What it looks like: Psoriasis causes patches of thickened skin, most often with silver, scaly flakes. It’s usually found around the elbows, feet, knees, palms, and scalp.
Other symptoms to note: Telltale scales set psoriasis apart from other rashes. Per the CDC, up to 20% of people with psoriasis also experience psoriatic arthritis. Psoriasis is not contagious; it’s due to “overactivity of the immune system resulting in skin inflammation,” Dr. Zeichner explains.
Right image credit: Tim Kubacki
What it looks like: Also called urticaria, hives are raised welts in the skin that appear red or discolored. They range in size from small bumps to larger patches.
Other symptoms to note: Hives are most of often the result of exposure to allergens, and they could be a sign of a serious allergic reaction. Hives might not cause any discoloration on darker skin, so be alert for raised patches or welts—those could be a sign of urticaria.
What it looks like: Acne causes red, discolored bumps on the skin, along with whiteheads, blackheads, and cysts.
Other symptoms to note: Acne is the most common skin condition affecting Americans, Dr. Zeichner says, so you likely have experience with pimples already. The causes vary, but are often rooted in excess oil and bacteria on the face, chest, or back, which can be triggered by hormonal issues, stress, certain foods, and irritating products.
What it looks like: Also known as herpes zoster, shingles is a blistering rash. It often appears in a stripe or in the top quadrant of the head, but only on one side of the body.
Other symptoms to note: Blisters are painful and are sometimes accompanied by fever, headache, and chills. Local tingling or pain is common before the blisters appear. Shingles can affect the eye and even cause vision loss. The condition is caused by the same virus as chickenpox.
Bottom image credit: Preston Hunt
What it looks like: Seborrheic dermatitis is a form of eczema that is characterized by scaly, oily or greasy patches of skin, usually on the scalp.
Other symptoms to note: This condition is itchy and can cause dandruff and buildup on the scalp. It’s also common on other oily areas, like the face and chest, and can be difficult to treat. Dr. Zeichner explains that although the exact cause of seborrheic dermatitis is unknown, the body overreacts to yeast on oily parts of the skin, causing the thick, flaky buildup.
Top image credit: Amras666
What it looks like: Like seborrheic dermatitis, perioral dermatitis causes red, inflamed skin and small pustules around the nose and mouth.
Other symptoms to note: Flareups can be itchy and uncomfortable, and are often confused with acne. There is no known cause of perioral dermatitis, but overuse of topical corticosteroids is associated with the condition.
What it looks like: Scabies is a discolored, splotchy rash that can appear pimple-like on any affected parts of the skin. Patients might also notice tiny lines on the skin where the mites have burrowed.
Other symptoms to note: Scabies is very itchy, and usually more intense at night. Unlike the other rashes on this list, this one is caused by an infestation of mites. It’s very contagious and spreads easily through skin-to-skin contact in crowded spaces.
Top image credit: Cixia
Bottom image credit: Tim Kubacki
What it looks like: Drug rashes are usually speckled, itchy, and red, and can cover large areas of skin. They can appear days to weeks after taking a medication.
Other symptoms to note: Drug rashes can be a side effect of or a reaction to a new medication; almost any medication can cause a drug rash, but antibiotics and NSAIDs are the most common culprits. The rash might not be anything to worry about, but it could be a sign of a serious allergic reaction, especially if combined with difficulty breathing. Contact your doctor immediately if you experience these symptoms.
What it looks like: Purplish legions on the inner arms, legs, wrists, or ankles can signify lichen planus, a skin rash triggered by an overreaction of the immune system.
Other symptoms to note: The legions are usually itchy and may cause skin discoloration as they heal. Lichen planus does not have one single cause—illnesses, allergies, and stress can all trigger breakouts. It is not contagious.
Right image credit: James Heilman, M.D.
What it looks like: Measles causes flat, red spots that cover huge swaths of skin. The rash often appears on the face near the hairline, then spreads down to the feet.
Other symptoms to note: The rash is accompanied by flu-like symptoms, including high fever, cough, and runny nose. Conjunctivitis (pink eye) is also common. Young people could face severe complications from measles, so contact your healthcare provider if you suspect exposure to the illness. Measles is spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and it’s one of the most contagious diseases, per the CDC.
Top image credit: Mike Blyth
15Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease
What it looks like: Hand, foot, and mouth disease is named for its characteristic flat, red spots that appear on the palms, soles of the feet, and around the mouth.
Other symptoms to note: Spots may blister over time. Cold-like symptoms, including fever and loss of appetite, might also appear. It’s usually not serious, but it’s very contagious and can spread quickly through skin contact or respiratory transmission among people of any age, especially in schools.
What it looks like: The most recognizable reaction on this list is the bullseye rash—a large, red, target-like rash that signals the early stages of Lyme disease from the bite of an infected blacklegged tick. However, many tick bites do not cause a bullseye rash; it appears in about 70 to 80% of Lyme patients.
Other symptoms to note: You might actually find a tick attached to you before a rash appears, which is usually itchy. The bullseye rash in particular is a telltale sign of Lyme disease, even though some patients never get one, so monitor your symptoms and let your doctor know as soon as you notice one.
What it looks like: Lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that causes inflammation throughout the body, often presents with a red, butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and nose. It is usually worsened by exposure to the sun.
Other symptoms to note: Although the rash does not leave scarring, it could cause discoloration after it disappears. The butterfly rash is distinct from the sores and scaly lesions also caused by lupus. Each case varies, but topical treatments and lifestyle changes can help the rash fade.
Jake SmithJake Smith, an editorial fellow at Prevention, recently graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in magazine journalism and just started going to the gym.
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What’s My Rash? Pictures And Descriptions Of 21 Rash Types
Common Rashes Pictures and Descriptions
There are many different kinds of rashes out there. Some are mild and some are potentially life threatening. Here, we’ll take a look at a variety of rashes and use photos to help you identify the difference between them.
Only a doctor can diagnose your rash so if you have one, it’s crucial you seek medical attention as it may be a sign of an underlying condition. You can see a doctor about your rash without leaving home by booking an online appointment with PlushCare. Our doctors are all graduates from the top 50 U.S. medical schools and are highly trained to treat rashes online.
Our primary care physicians are an affordable alternative to dermatologists and can help get you the treatment you need.
Appointments as low as $20.
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In order to receive the best treatment, it is recommended that you send your doctor pictures of your rash prior to your appointment so they can make a diagnosis and provide you with a treatment plan. This can easily be done via the PlushCare app or even via email after you book your appointment.
Here are pictures and descriptions of 21 types of rashes.
[caption: Attribution: Courtesy Colm Anderson via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.5]
Cellulitis is an infection caused by a bacteria, typically streptococcus or staphylococcus, entering through a crack or break in your skin. It may also enter through areas of dry, flaky, or swollen skin.
Cellulitis causes red, painful, tender, hot, swollen skin and may or may not be accompanied by oozing, blisters, red spots, or skin dimpling. It may spread quickly. While it typically presents as a rash on the lower legs, it can also occur as a rash on the arms, face, and other areas.
A severe infection may cause fever, chills, and red streaks. The infection can spread to the lymph nodes and bloodstream, so cellulitis requires immediate medical attention because it can become life-threatening.
If you have symptoms of cellulitis with a fever or a rash that is changing rapidly, seek medical attention immediately.
Chickenpox is a virus that causes itchy, red, fluid-filled blisters all over the body accompanied by a fever, body aches, a sore throat, and loss of appetite 10 to 21 days after exposure to the virus. It is extremely contagious until every blister has crusted over and it usually lasts for five to 10 days.
Children afflicted with chickenpox should be kept out of school to avoid spreading it to other children.
Contact your doctor if the rash spreads to one or both eyes; the rash gets very red, warm or tender; the rash is accompanied by dizziness, confusion, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, tremors, loss of muscle coordination, worsening cough, vomiting, stiff neck, or a fever higher than 102° F; or if anyone in the household is immune deficient or younger than 6 months old.
Today, there is a safe, effective vaccine that can prevent chickenpox.
Contact dermatitis is a rash that appears within a few hours to a few days after your skin comes into contact with an allergen or irritant. The rash has a visible border where your skin came into contact with the offending substance. Your skin will be itchy, red, raw, or scaly and may have blisters that weep, ooze, or become crusty. While it isn’t contagious or life-threatening, it can make you pretty miserable.
You should try to identify what caused your reaction and avoid it in the future to prevent future occurrences of contact dermatitis. It may take two to four weeks after getting rid of the item that caused the contact dermatitis for the rash to clear up. Cool, wet compresses and anti-itch creams can help relieve symptoms in the meantime.
A diaper rash is a common form of inflamed skin that occurs on areas of the body which are in contact with a diaper. The skin may look wet, red, or irritated and may feel warm to the touch. Afflicted babies will often fuss during a diaper change.
This itchy rash on the buttocks is a common rash for infants and toddlers to suffer from, although it can afflict anybody who wears a diaper, and is usually caused by spending too much time in a dirty diaper. although it can also be caused by chafing and skin sensitivity.
Diaper rash can usually be treated at home by air drying, changing diapers more frequently, and using ointments. Take your baby to the doctor if the rash:
- Is severe or unusual
- Gets worse
- Bleeds, itches, or oozes
- Is accompanied by a fever
A drug allergy causes a rash that may occur several days or even weeks after taking a medication. It causes a mild, itchy, red rash and may be accompanied by a fever, an upset stomach, and small red or purple spots on the skin.
Potentially life-threatening symptoms may include hives, a racing heart, swelling, itching, and trouble breathing.
If you have symptoms of a drug allergic reaction, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, looks like white or yellow scaly patches of skin that might flake off. Hair loss may occur within the rash, and the area may be itchy, red, oily, or greasy. Eczema typically affects people who suffer from asthma or allergies. While it is more common in children, it can happen to people of any age.
There is no cure for eczema however, self-care measures such as avoiding harsh soaps, moisturizing regularly, and applying medicated creams or ointments can relieve itching and prevent new outbreaks.
Fifth disease, also known as “slapped cheek disease,” is a viral infection that causes a bright red round rash on the cheeks, upper arms, and legs as well as a headache, fatigue, low fever, sore throat, runny nose, diarrhea, or nausea.
Children are more likely to develop this lacy-patterned rash, which may be easier to see after a hot bath or shower. While typically mild in children, fifth disease can be more severe for pregnant women or anyone with a compromised immune system. Fifth disease in pregnant women, for example, can cause life-threatening anemia for the unborn baby.
[Caption: Attribution: Maslesha via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0]
Symptoms of flea bites appear immediately after being bitten by a flea. The itchy red bump is typically surrounded by a halo and often appears in clusters on the lower legs and feet.
Fleas reproduce quickly, especially in homes with pets, and they can be difficult to get rid of, occasionally requiring the assistance of a professional exterminator. Flea bites will get better without treatment, but only eliminating fleas from your home can prevent future bites. Fleas can’t fly, but if they were human, they could jump over skyscrapers in one leap
[Caption: Attribution: KlatschmohnAcker via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0]
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a mild, contagious viral infection which typically affects children under the age of five. It may cause red spots that are either flat or raised on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and possibly the butt or genital area, along with painful, red blisters in the mouth and on the tongue and gums.
A fever is often the first symptom of hand, foot, and mouth disease, appearing three to six days after contact with the virus. Sores in the mouth appear a day or two later, followed by a rash on the hands and feet a day or two after that.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is typically mild. Your child should see a doctor if sores in the mouth prevent drinking or if symptoms worsen after a few days.
[Caption: Attribution: James Heilman, MD via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0]
Impetigo is a contagious bacterial infection that is common in babies and children. An irritating rash with fluid-filled blisters that pop easily and form a honey-colored crust is often located around the nose, mouth, and chin.
Antibiotics are typically recommended to help prevent the spread of impetigo to others. Children should be kept home from school until no longer contagious, which is typically about 24 hours after starting the antibiotic.
[Caption: Attribution :Dong Soo Kim, derivative work: Natr (talk) via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0]
Kawasaki disease typically affects children under the age of five. It can cause a red, swollen “strawberry” tongue; a high fever; swollen, red palms and soles of the feet; swollen lymph nodes; and bloodshot eyes.
While it typically improves on its own, it can lead to an aneurysm of the coronary artery as a complication, which can be fatal.
If you or a loved one are showing symptoms of Kawasaki Disease, seek urgent medical attention.
Symptoms of measles, a viral respiratory infection, include a fever, sore throat, red or watery eyes, loss of appetite, cough, and a runny nose with a red rash that spreads from the face down the body several days after the rest of the symptoms begin. Tiny red spots with blue-white centers may also appear inside the mouth.
Measles can be very serious and still kills about 100,000 people a year, mostly children under the age of five.
While measles used to be common, it can almost always be prevented by receiving the measles vaccine. According to the CDC, “The best protection against measles is measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine. MMR vaccine provides long-lasting protection against all strains of measles. Your child needs two doses of MMR vaccine for best protection: The first dose at 12 through 15 months of age and the second dose at 4 through 6 years of age.
[Caption: Attribution: User:The Wednesday Island (of the English Wikipedia) via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0]
Psoriasis is a process that speeds up the life cycle of skin cells, which causes scaly, silvery, sharply-defined skin patches which are typically located on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back. The patches are itchy and may be painful.
There is no cure for psoriasis, and it is a chronic problem that may come and go. Treatment revolves around trying to slow down the life cycle of the skin cells. Lifestyle changes such as moisturizing, quitting smoking, and managing stress can help.
Ringworm gets its name from the distinctive shape of the rash and has nothing to do with worms. It is caused by a fungus and creates itchy circular, scaly rashes with a raised border and healthy skin in the middle of the ring.
The same fungus that causes ringworm also causes jock itch and athlete’s foot. Antifungal creams or medications are required to treat ringworm.
[Caption: Attribution: tomasz przechlewski via Flickr, CC BY 2.0]
Rosacea is a chronic skin problem with no known cause that leads to recurring cycles of fading and relapse, which may be triggered by spicy food, alcohol, sunlight, stress, and the intestinal bacteria Helicobacter pylori. There are four different subtypes, each with its own set of symptoms.
Common symptoms of rosacea include facial flushing or redness; raised, red bumps; dry skin; and skin sensitivity.
[Caption: Attribution: Steschke via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0]
Scabies is a contagious, itchy skin disease caused by an infestation of the microscopic Sarcoptes scabiei mite, which lives in and burrows into your skin, where it lays eggs. It may take four to six weeks for symptoms to appear.
Symptoms include a very itchy rash that may be pimply, scaly, or made up of tiny blisters as well as raised white or flesh-colored lines.
Scarlet fever is an infection due to group A Streptococcus bacteria that involves a bright red rash which covers the entire body (apart from the hands and feet) and shows up during or soon after a bout of strep throat. The red bumps of the rash are so rough that they may feel like sandpaper. Scarlet fever will also cause a bright red tongue.
Scarlet fever is most common in children from five to 15. Antibiotics are usually effective, but left untreated, scarlet fever can result in more-serious conditions that affect the heart, kidneys, and other parts of the body.
[Caption: Attribution:Kein Trinkwasser via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0]
Seborrheic eczema or dermatitis is a type of eczema that commonly affects the scalp, although it can affect the ears, nose or mouth. It appears as white or yellow scaly patches of skin that flake off or cause stubborn dandruff. Affected areas of the skin may be red, itchy, greasy, or oily and may have hair loss. It’s known as a crib cap when it happens to babies.
Seborrheic dermatitis may clear up without treatment, but it may also resist treatment or keep coming back. Cleaning the area daily with a gentle soap or shampoo can reduce oiliness and dead skin buildup.
[Caption: Attribution: melvil via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0]
Shingles causes a rash involving clusters of fluid-filled blisters that break easily and weep fluid. The rash is extremely painful and may burn, tingle, or itch, even if there are no blisters present. The rash occurs in a striped pattern commonly on the torso but occasionally on other parts of the body including the face. The rash may be accompanied by a low fever, chills, a headache, or fatigue.
The varicella-zoster virus causes chickenpox, then lies dormant. It may reactivate as shingles many years later.
[Caption: Attribution: Medicalpal via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0]
SLE is an autoimmune disease which displays various symptoms and affects multiple body systems and organs. SLE is often accompanied by a classic butterfly-shaped face rash that crosses from cheek to cheek over the nose which may appear or get worse in the sun.
Other symptoms may include a wide array of skin and mucous membrane symptoms that range from rashes to ulcers.
A tick bite can cause pain or swelling in the affected area with a rash, burning sensation, blisters, or difficulty breathing. Ticks may stay attached for a long time, and bites typically don’t appear in clusters.
The greater concern with tick bites is that they can cause a wide variety of diseases including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
If you get bitten by a tick, remove it immediately, being careful to get the entire head out and not just the body, and contact your healthcare provider for assistance.
Don’t See Your Rash?
If you don’t see your rash in the pictures above and are looking for a diagnosis, we recommend booking a video appointment with a PlushCare doctor. The doctor will look at your rash and be able to give you an official diagnosis and treatment plan.
Rashes can have a variety of different causes. Common causes of rashes include:
- Coming into contact with something that causes an allergic or otherwise adverse reaction, such as soap, laundry detergent, beauty products, latex, rubber, elastic, dye in clothing, or poisonous plants
- Bug bites
- Autoimmune diseases
- Fungal infections
- Skin irritation
- Bacterial infections
- Infestation of mites
- Viral infections
Many mild rashes can be treated at home. To help relieve discomfort and promote healing, try the following:
- Use mild, unscented soaps and cleansers
- Wash your skin and hair with lukewarm water instead of hot
- Pat rashes dry instead of rubbing
- Avoid covering rashes when possible. They heal better when they can breathe.
- Stop using new products that may have triggered the rash
- Avoid scratching – it can lead to potentially-serious infections
- Itchy rashes can be soothed by hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion
- Take an oatmeal bath
- Over the counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin) can help relieve minor pain associated with a rash.
Contact your doctor if your rash is accompanied by:
- Joint pain
- A sore throat
- A slight fever above 100.4° F
- Red streaks or tenderness
- A recent tick or animal bite
Go to the hospital immediately if your rash is accompanied by:
- Increasing pain or discoloration of the rash
- Tightness or itching of the throat
- Trouble breathing
- Swelling of your face or limbs
- A high fever
- Severe head or neck pain
- Vomiting or diarrhea
What you can expect during an appointment exploring the type and cause of a rash
Your doctor will look at the rash, and ask you about:
- When the rash started and how its progressed
- Your medical history
- Your diet
- What products or medications you have recently started using
- Your hygiene
While only a medical professional can diagnose the cause of your rash, hopefully, you now have more information about what’s causing you to itch.
Remember, the top online doctors at PlushCare are available for same day appointments and can treat your rash without you needing to leave home.
Book on our free mobile app or website.
Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.
See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.
Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.