A rash may be an outward sign of condition affecting the body as a whole. Infectious fevers, emotional disorders, and allergies may all have accompanying rashes.
However, rashes are equally likely to be an indication of a localized disorder in the skin, the kind of inflammation that is commonly called dermatitis, included in this type of local inflammation re diaper rash, prickly heat, eczema, and fungal infections.
Types of rashes
Rashes take many different forms. A rash that is present at the start of an illness is called a primary rash. The rash may subsequently change in character and appearance during the course of the causative disease, owing to complications or in response to the treatment used. New rashes or changes in the original rash are called secondary eruptions, and each has its own set of characteristics.
- Primary rashes
- Secondary rashes
The most common of the primary rashes shows as areas of redness known as macules. Any abnormal change in the color of the skin over a limited area qualifies as a macular rash; the redness itself is known as erythema.
Sometimes, in the early stages of measles, the rash consists of hundreds of tiny red spots, each spot discrete or separate from the others.
In other cases the spots enlarge until they run into each other to form blotchy patches. This is called a confluent rash. Usually, if a thumb is pressed on a part of the rash the area will not fade, but a white area may remain temporarily. This is an important diagnostic feature and is characteristic of many conditions; it is especially noticeable in typhoid fever.
The second common type of rash consists of spots which are not necessarily red but project above the surface of the skin. They can be felt as small raised pimples if a fingertip is run over the skin, in contrast to a macular rash which is not raised. The pimples are known as papules, and the rash is called a popular rash. A maculopapular rash has both macules and papules.
When the rash is made up of pimples containing a clear or milky fluid doctors refer to it as vesicular and each pimple is vesicle. Chicken pox and herpes simplex are typical vesicular rashes.
A rash may also consist of raised areas of skin much larger than papules. These are known as welts, and they are usually white at the center and pink or red at the outer edge. This type of skin eruption, called Urticaria or hives, is usually highly irritant and indicates an allergic reaction that releases histamine into the skin, causing inflammation.
In some cases a primary rash, whatever its type, simply fades away or resolves as the condition improves, without going through any secondary stage and without leaving scars or any other aftereffects. Secondary eruptions are quite common, however, and may manifest themselves in a variety of ways.
Often the area of skin covered by the rash peels away. This normally occurs if the original rash was a dry macular or papular one or, as in some cases, a mixture of the two.
The type of rash usually seen in the later stages of chicken pox, by contrast, is Pustular: that is, the spots have become infected pustules, containing pus. This type of moist lesion will dry out to form a crust or small scab. New skin will grow under the scabs, which will eventually separate and drop off. If the deeper layers of skin have been affected, as when chicken pox spots are scratched, there may be scarring in the form of pockmarks, or tiny pits in the skin.
Other types of secondary rash include a thickening of the area of the skin concerned, giving it a leathery look and texture that is characteristic of long term inflammation or chronic inflammation. Similarly, permanent discoloration or pigmentation of the skin may develop in the area of the rash.
Finally, entire areas of skin may break down, exposing the underlying or subcutaneous tissue. Without this protective covering of skin, ulcers can form which are very likely to become infected by bacteria from the atmosphere, especially in moist, heavily contaminated environments. This sometimes happens with diaper rash, cold sores, or rashes from shingles.
- Skin rashes can be caused by allergies, excessive heat, contact with certain plants, infections, or bug bites.
- Some plants cause rashes when they are touched. The most common of these are poison ivy and poison oak. Both are shiny green and tune orange and red in the fall. Each stem has three leaves at the end of it.
- Allergies may appear as a red, itchy rash or even like small mosquito bites. Allergies can also cause hives, a blotchy rash.
- Fungus may appear in the form of ringworm or athlete’s food, or red, itchy crusty patches of skin. Impetigo, a bacterial infection, forms honey colored sores on the skin.
What to do
If you’re sure it’s an allergy, you may want to take an over-the counter antihistamine, available at the drugstore. Ask the pharmacist to recommended one. You can also try anti-itch cream and powders. If you experiences swelling in the face or tongue or have difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately.
- Rash from plants
Wash the skin completely to remove the plant oil. If itchiness remains, oatmeal or Aveeno baths can help. A hot bath or shower followed by calamine lotion is also beneficial. All of these items can be found in the drugstore.
Soak off the crust with warm water, wash with soap and water, and apply antibacterial cream.
- Athlete’s foot and ringworm
For athlete’s foot, wash feet well twice a day; dry them thoroughly and apply antifungal medicine. It’s important to put on clean socks each time feet are washed. Wearing sandals or canvas sneakers lets moisture escape and helps and feet heal. If very uncomfortable, cream or liquid treatments may be applied. These rashes and infections are common and nothing to be embarrassed about. If ringworm appears on your scalp, you need to see your doctor for medication.
Common skin rashes
In order to know how to treat a rash, it is best to know the cause. The following table lists some of the conditions that most commonly cause rashes, together with a description of characteristic features. It is not means to be a list of all possible causes of skin rash, however, consult your health care provider for a definitive diagnosis of your rash.
|Cause of Rash||Description|
|Acne||Inflammation and pimples, possibly with whiteheads and/or blackheads, usually on the face but possibly also on the chest and back. In severe cases, pus-filled cysts and bumps can accompany the pimples.|
|Allergy (food or drug)||Pink or red flat and raised lesions. The skin may appear swollen, and it may be itchy. Usually goes away once the offering food or drug is identified and avoided, but in rare cases a drug allergy can lead to a prolonged skin disease called Stevens Johnson syndrome.|
|Athlete’s foot||Clusters of tiny blisters and scaly sores that appear on the feet, especially between the toes. Itchy and burning. Goes away with treatment, but can be persistent; a complete cure can take up to a month in some cases.|
|Candida infection||Inflamed, splotchy red patches that may itch and/or be tender to the touch, most often in such areas as the underarms, groin beneath the breasts, and other places with skin to skin contact. Gets better with treatment, but can be persistent.|
|Chickenpox||Appears first as a flat, reddish rash, and then turns into batches of tiny pimples and blisters that crust over as they heal. Usually preceded by a day or two of typical viral symptoms fever, headache, fatigue, and general malaise. In most cases the rash begins on the trunk and spreads to the extremities. Usually there are comparatively few lesions on the neck and head. Very itchy.|
|Contact dermatitis||Redness, itching, swelling, often followed by blisters of varying size at the site of contact with the agent responsible.|
|Eczema||A raised red rash that may be dry to scaly or composed of weepy, fluid filled lesions. Itching can be severe. Usually an allergic reaction that improves once the allergen is identified and avoid.|
|Heat rash||Small, raised red lesions with tiny blisters at the center. Appears suddenly, usually in hot weather, and resolves quickly. May be itchy and stinging.|
|Herpes||Small blisters and ulcers, either around the mouth or in the genital area that may be preceded by an itching or burning sensation. Itchy and painful. An outbreak usually lasts four to ten days, but out breaks can be recurring problem.|
|Lupus||Discoid lupus erythomatosus (DLE): starts as one or more red, circular, thickened areas of the skin that later form scars, most often on the face, behind the ears, and/or on the scalp. If lesions lead to scarring on the scalp, there can be permanent hair loss in the affected areas.
Systemic lupus erythomatosus (SLE): a red butterfly shaped rash over the cheeks and nose. There can also be reddening on the palms and fingers; flat or raised red lesions on the face, neck, upper chest, and/or elbow; and circular markings similar to those of DLE.
|Lyme disease||A round raised reddish lesion that is usually paler or whitish in the center occurs at the site of the tick bite that transmits this disease. May or may not be accompanied by flulike symptoms, including headache, fever, and general malaise. The rash may come and go throughout the illness.|
|Measles||A splotchy purplish red rash of irregularly shaped raised and flat lesions. Begins as small spots that coalesce into larger patches. Usually preceded by several days of viral symptoms, including fever, cough, and general malaise, as well as conjunctivitis. In most cases, the rash begins on the face and spreads to the trunk and extremities. Lasts four to seven days, and then fades away as the virus runs its course.|
|Poison ivy, oak, or sumac||Small fluid filled lesions, with redness and swelling, weeping and crusting. Can appear several hours or several days after contact with the plant. Itching and burning can be severe. Lasts from two to four weeks, and then gradually heals.|
|Psoriasis||Patches of reddened skin covered by thick, scaly clumps, most often on the scalp, elbows, knees, back, and buttocks, though any part of the body can be affected. Cannot be cured, but can usually be managed with treatment.|
|Ringworm||Small, flat lesions that grow to be approximately ¼ inch circular lesions. The skin may appear scaly; there may be fluid filled blister. Itchy. Usually appears on the face, arms, and/or trunk. Goes away with treatment.|
|Rosacea||Areas of redness and swelling, possibly with bumps and pimples, principally in the center of the face. Dilated blood vessels beneath the skin may appear as reddish blotches. Cannot be cured, but can usually be managed with treatment.|
|Scabies||Small red lumps that may become dry and scaly. You may also see thin light gray or pinkish lines under the skin. Often very itchy. Most commonly occurs on the buttocks, genitals, wrists, armpits, and between the fingers and toes. Resolves with treatment.|
|Seborrhea||Dry scaling over underlying redness, usually on the scalp or face or skin folds.|
|Shingles||Tiny vesicles that erupt following two days or so of pain and itching at the site, usually on one side of the face or trunk.|
|Warts||Common warts: raised, sharply outlined rough bumps, often brown or gray in color. Most often found on the hands, feet, face, and/or neck.
Genital warts: clusters of small rubbery, usually pinkish colored, cauliflower shaped growths in the genital area.
Plane warts: small, flat lumps, often found in clusters.
Plantar warts: painful hard round areas in and on the soles of the feet and bottoms of the toes.
Homeopathic treatment of rashes – Homeopathy is one of the most popular holistic systems of medicine. The selection of remedy is based upon the theory of individualization and symptoms similarity by using holistic approach. This is the only way through which a state of complete health can be regained by removing all the sign and symptoms from which the patient is suffering. The aim of homeopathy is not only to treat rashes but to address its underlying cause and individual susceptibility. As far as therapeutic medication is concerned, several remedies are available to cure rashes that can be selected on the basis of cause, sensations and modalities of the complaints. For individualized remedy selection and treatment, the patient should consult a qualified homeopathic doctor in person. There are following remedies which are helpful in the treatment of rashes:
Belladonna, Aconite, Dulcamara, Rhus Tox, Pulsatilla, Sulphur, Bryonia, Arsenic Album, Antim Crude, Graphites, Hepar Sulph, Mercurius, Ipecauc, Natrum Mur, Mezarium, Causticum, Coffea, Arnica, Ledum Pal, Antim Tart, Gelsemium, Glonine, Kali Brom, Nitric Acid, Lachesis, Sepia, Kali Iod, Sulphur, and many other medicines.
David B. Jacoby, R. M. Youngson: Encyclopedia of Family Health; 2004; 1782-84
Arise Foundation, Edmund F. Benson, Susan Benson: Health and Hygiene; 1996; 17
Janet Zand, Allan N. Spreen, James B. LaValle: Smart Medicine for Healthier Living: A practical A to Z reference to Natural; 1999; 529