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What is causing my rash?

11 irritable reactions

1. Amoxicillin reaction

Some people are allergic to the antibiotic amoxicillin. If a person experiences any of the following symptoms they should stop taking it and report to their doctor:

  • skin rash
  • blotchy skin
  • itchiness

Image credit: Skoch3, 2008.

2. Erythema ab igne (hot bottle rash)

Erythema ab igne is caused by overexposure to heat. Regularly using hot water bottles, or other forms of heat, to relieve pain from muscle or joint damage may lead to developing this skin condition.

Image credit: James Heilman, MD, 2010.

3. Ketoconazole shampoo reaction

Applying ketoconazole shampoo to the scalp can help reduce skin conditions such as dandruff and psoriasis. If a person has an allergic reaction to ketoconazole their symptoms may include:

  • enflamed rash covering the area that came into contact with the shampoo
  • itchiness

Image credit: Niels Olson, 2010.

4. Beard dye reaction

Some people are allergic to chemicals found in beard or hair coloring dye. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include:

  • dry, flaky skin
  • redness
  • itchiness

Image credit: Yngve Roennike, 2016.

5. Infant milk rash

Breastfed babies may develop a rash if they are allergic to a food group that their mother is consuming. Symptoms of a food allergy can include:

  • hives
  • itchiness
  • coughing
  • diarrhea

6. Urticaria (nettle rash)

A person with urticaria will likely develop a raised, itchy rash that is usually triggered by an allergen. Common symptoms of urticaria include:

  • pink wheals (swellings) on the skin
  • redness
  • extreme itchiness

7. Grass allergy

A person with a grass allergy may develop hay fever symptoms when coming into contact with grass. It is also common to experience:

  • small red dots on the skin
  • hives
  • itchiness

Image credit: Carolyn, 2009.

8. Poison ivy reaction

Coming into contact with poison ivy plant oil can lead to a person developing contact dermatitis. Symptoms of this include:

  • small bumps or blisters on the skin
  • redness
  • itchiness

Image credit: CDC/ Richard S. Hibbits, 1971.

9. Smallpox vaccination reaction

Following a vaccination, some people may develop the following symptoms:

  • small bumps
  • redness
  • itchiness
  • fever

Image credit: CDC/ Arthur E. Kaye, 1969.

10. Hyposensitization therapy reaction

Hyposensitization therapy is used to treat allergic disease. While receiving the course of injections, a person may experience the following symptoms:

Image credit: Bionerd, 2008.

11. Euproctis chrysorrhoea (brown-tail moth) reaction

A person may develop a rash after touching a brown-tail moth. This is caused by a reaction to the toxins found in the moth’s hairs. Symptoms include:

  • red, blotchy skin
  • raised bumps

Image credit: B kimmel, 2010.



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A rash is a noticeable change in the texture or color of your skin. Your skin may become scaly, bumpy, itchy, or otherwise irritated.

Pictures of different rashes

There are many different causes for rashes. Here’s a list of 21 with pictures.

Warning: graphic images ahead.

Flea bites

  • usually located in clusters on the lower legs and feet
  • itchy, red bump surrounded by a red halo
  • symptoms begin immediately after being bitten

Read full article on flea bites.

Fifth disease

  • headache, fatigue, low fever, sore throat, runny nose, diarrhea, and nausea
  • children are more likely than adults to experience a rash
  • round, bright red rash on the cheeks
  • lacy-patterned rash on the arms, legs, and upper body that might be more visible after a hot shower or bath

Read full article on fifth disease.


  • chronic skin disease that goes through cycles of fading and relapse
  • relapses may be triggered by spicy foods, alcoholic beverages, sunlight, stress, and the intestinal bacteria Helicobacter pylori
  • the four subtypes of rosacea encompass a wide variety of symptoms
  • common symptoms include facial flushing, raised, red bumps, facial redness, skin dryness, and skin sensitivity

Read full article on rosacea.


  • common in babies and children
  • often located in the area around the mouth, chin, and nose
  • irritating rash and fluid-filled blisters that pop easily and form a honey-colored crust

Read full article on impetigo.


  • circular-shaped scaly rashes with raised border
  • skin in the middle of the ring appears clear and healthy, and the edges of the ring may spread outward
  • itchy

Read full article on ringworm.

Contact dermatitis

  • appears hours to days after contact with an allergen
  • has visible borders and appears where your skin touched the irritating substance
  • skin is itchy, red, scaly, or raw
  • blisters that weep, ooze, or become crusty

Read full article on contact dermatitis.

Allergic eczema

  • may resemble a burn
  • often found on hands and forearms
  • skin is itchy, red, scaly, or raw
  • blisters that weep, ooze, or become crusty

Read full article on allergic eczema.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease

  • usually affects children under age 5
  • painful, red blisters in the mouth and on the tongue and gums
  • flat or raised red spots located on the palms of the hand and soles of the feet
  • spots may also appear on the buttocks or genital area

Read full article on hand, foot, and mouth disease.

Diaper rash

  • located on areas that have contact with a diaper
  • skin looks red, wet, and irritated
  • warm to the touch

Read full article on diaper rash.


  • yellow or white scaly patches that flake off
  • affected areas may be red, itchy, greasy, or oily
  • hair loss may occur in the area with the rash

Read full article on eczema.


  • scaly, silvery, sharply defined skin patches
  • commonly located on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back
  • may be itchy or asymptomatic

Read full article on psoriasis.


  • clusters of itchy, red, fluid-filled blisters in various stages of healing all over the body
  • rash is accompanied by fever, body aches, sore throat, and loss of appetite
  • remains contagious until all blisters have crusted over

Read full article on chickenpox.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)

  • an autoimmune disease that displays a wide variety of symptoms that affect many different body systems and organs
  • a wide array of skin and mucous membrane symptoms that range from rashes to ulcers
  • classic butterfly-shaped face rash that crosses from cheek to cheek over the nose
  • rashes may appear or get worse with sun exposure

Read full article on systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).


  • very painful rash that may burn, tingle, or itch, even if there are no blisters present
  • clusters of fluid-filled blisters that break easily and weep fluid
  • rash emerges in a linear stripe pattern that appears most commonly on the torso, but may occur on other parts of the body, including the face
  • may be accompanied by low fever, chills, headache, or fatigue

Read full article on shingles.


This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • caused by bacteria or fungi entering through a crack or cut in the skin
  • red, painful, swollen skin with or without oozing that spreads quickly
  • hot and tender to the touch
  • fever, chills, and red streaking from the rash might be a sign of serious infection requiring medical attention

Read full article on cellulitis.

Drug allergy

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • mild, itchy, red rash may occur days to weeks after taking a drug
  • severe drug allergies can be life-threatening and symptoms include hives, racing heart, swelling, itching, and difficulty breathing
  • other symptoms include fever, stomach upset, and tiny purple or red dots on the skin

Read full article on drug allergies.


  • symptoms may take four to six weeks to appear
  • extremely itchy rash may be pimply, made up of tiny blisters, or scaly
  • raised, white, or flesh-toned lines

Read full article on scabies.


  • symptoms include fever, sore throat, red, watery eyes, loss of appetite, cough, and runny nose
  • red rash spreads from the face down the body three to five days after first symptoms appear
  • tiny red spots with blue-white centers appear inside the mouth

Read full article on measles.

Tick bite

  • pain or swelling at the bite area
  • rash, burning sensation, blisters, or difficulty breathing
  • the tick often remains attached to the skin for a long time
  • bites rarely appear in groups

Read full article on tick bites.

Seborrheic eczema

  • yellow or white scaly patches that flake off
  • affected areas may be red, itchy, greasy, or oily
  • hair loss may occur in the rash area

Read full article on seborrheic eczema.

Scarlet fever

  • occurs at the same time as or right after a strep throat infection
  • red skin rash all over the body (but not the hands and feet)
  • rash is made up of tiny bumps that make it feel like “sandpaper”
  • bright red tongue

Read full article on scarlet fever.

Kawasaki disease

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • usually affects children under age 5
  • red, swollen tongue (strawberry tongue), high fever, swollen, red palms and soles of the feet, swollen lymph nodes, bloodshot eyes
  • may cause severe heart problems so consult a doctor if there’s concern
  • however, usually gets better on its own

Read full article on Kawasaki disease.

What causes rashes?

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is one of the most common causes of rashes. This type of rash occurs when the skin comes into direct contact with a foreign substance that causes an adverse reaction, leading to a rash. The resulting rash may be itchy, red, or inflamed. Possible causes of contact dermatitis include:

  • beauty products, soaps, and laundry detergent
  • dyes in clothing
  • coming into contact with chemicals in rubber, elastic, or latex
  • touching poisonous plants, such as poison oak, poison ivy, or poison sumac


Taking medications may also cause rashes. They can form as a result of:

Other causes

Other possible causes of rashes include the following:

  • A rash can sometimes develop in the area of a bug bite, such as a flea bite. Tick bites are of particular concern because they can transmit disease.
  • Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a rash that primarily occurs in people with asthma or allergies. The rash is often reddish and itchy with a scaly texture.
  • Psoriasis is a common skin condition that can cause a scaly, itchy, red rash to form along the scalp, elbows, and joints.
  • Seborrheic eczema is a type of eczema that most often affects the scalp and causes redness, scaly patches, and dandruff. It can also occur on the ears, mouth, or nose. When babies have it, it’s known as crib cap.
  • Lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease that triggers a rash on the cheeks and nose. This rash is known as a “butterfly,” or malar, rash.
  • Rosacea is a chronic skin condition of unknown cause. There are several types of rosacea, but all are characterized by redness and rash on the face.
  • Ringworm is a fungal infection that causes a distinctive ring-shaped rash. The same fungus that causes ringworm of the body and the scalp also causes jock itch and athlete’s foot.
  • Diaper rash is a common skin irritation in infants and toddlers. It’s usually caused by sitting too long in a dirty diaper.
  • Scabies is an infestation by tiny mites that live on and burrow into your skin. It causes a bumpy, itchy rash.
  • Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the skin. It usually appears as a red, swollen area that is painful and tender to the touch. If left untreated, the infection causing the cellulitis can spread and become life-threatening.

Causes of rashes in children

Children are particularly prone to rashes that develop as a result of illnesses, such as:

  • Chickenpox is a virus characterized by red, itchy blisters that form all over the body.
  • Measles is a viral respiratory infection that causes a widespread rash consisting of itchy, red bumps.
  • Scarlet fever is an infection due to group A Streptococcus bacteria that produces a toxin causing a bright red sandpaper-like rash.
  • Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a viral infection that can cause red lesions on the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet.
  • Fifth disease is a viral infection that causes a red, flat rash on the cheeks, upper arms, and legs.
  • Kawasaki disease is a rare but serious illness that triggers a rash and fever in the early stages and can lead to an aneurysm of the coronary artery as a complication.
  • Impetigo is a contagious bacterial infection that causes an itchy, crusty rash, and yellow, fluid-filled sores on the face, neck, and hands.

You can treat most contact rashes, but it depends on the cause. Follow these guidelines to help ease discomfort and speed up the healing process:

  • Use mild, gentle cleansers instead of scented bar soaps.
  • Use warm water instead of hot water for washing your skin and hair.
  • Pat the rash dry instead of rubbing it.
  • Let the rash breathe. If it’s possible, avoid covering it with clothing.
  • Stop using new cosmetics or lotions that may have triggered the rash.
  • Apply unscented moisturizing lotion to areas affected by eczema.
  • Avoid scratching the rash because doing so can make it worse and could lead to infection.
  • Apply an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to the affected area if the rash is very itchy and causing discomfort. Calamine lotion can also help relieve rashes from chickenpox, poison ivy, or poison oak.
  • Take an oatmeal bath. This can soothe the itchiness associated with rashes from eczema or psoriasis. Here’s how to make an oatmeal bath.
  • Wash your hair and scalp regularly with dandruff shampoo if you have dandruff along with a rash. Medicated dandruff shampoo is commonly available at drugstores, but your doctor can prescribe stronger types if you need them.

Over-the-counter medications

Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) in moderation for mild pain associated with the rash. Talk to your healthcare provider before you start taking these drugs, and avoid taking them for an extended period because they can have side effects. Ask your healthcare provider how long it’s safe for you to take them. You may not be able to take them if you have liver or kidney disease or a history of stomach ulcers.

When to see your healthcare provider about rashes

Call your healthcare provider if the rash doesn’t go away with home treatments. You should also contact them if you’re experiencing other symptoms in addition to your rash and suspect you have an illness. If you don’t already have a physician, you can use the Healthline FindCare tool to find a provider near you.

Go to the hospital immediately if you experience a rash along with any of the following symptoms:

  • increasing pain or discoloration in the rash area
  • tightness or itchiness in the throat
  • difficulty breathing
  • swelling of the face or extremities
  • fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • severe head or neck pain
  • repeated vomiting or diarrhea

Contact your healthcare provider if you have a rash as well as other systemic symptoms including:

  • joint pain
  • a sore throat
  • a fever slightly above 100.4°F (38°C)
  • red streaks or tender areas near the rash
  • a recent tick bite or animal bite

What to expect during your appointment

Your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam and inspect your rash. Expect to answer questions about your:

  • rash
  • medical history
  • diet
  • recent use of products or medications
  • hygiene

Your healthcare provider may also:

  • take your temperature
  • order tests, such as an allergy test or complete blood count
  • perform a skin biopsy, which involves taking a small sample of skin tissue for analysis
  • refer you to a specialist, such as a dermatologist, for further evaluation

fYour healthcare provider may also prescribe medication or medicated lotion to relieve your rash. Most people can treat their rashes effectively with medical treatments and home care.

What you can do now

Follow these tips if you have a rash:

  • Use home remedies to soothe mild contact rashes.
  • Identify potential triggers for the rash, and avoid them as much as possible
  • Call your healthcare provider if the rash doesn’t go away with home treatments. You should also contact them if you’re experiencing other symptoms in addition to your rash and suspect you have an illness.
  • Carefully follow any treatments your doctor prescribes. Speak with your healthcare provider if your rash persists or gets worse despite treatment.

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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.

Use our cost checker to see what you'll pay

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97% of conditions are successfully treated on the first visit.

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.

cellulitis-skin-rash[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.

kawasaki-disease[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.

psoriasis[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.

rosacea[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.

scabies-on-skin[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.

seborrheic-eczema[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.

shingles-on-skin[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.

systemic-lupus[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
  • Medications
  • 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
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • 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.


Read More About Rashes

Is your skin rash a COVID - 19 symptom?

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.

2Contact Dermatitis

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

9Seborrheic Dermatitis

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

10Perioral Dermatitis

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

12Drug Rash

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.

13Lichen Planus

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.

16Tick Bite

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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