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How to Identify Rash Causes and Symptoms

Rash Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

One of the best parts of the spring and summer months is being able to spend time outdoors. Unfortunately, the warmer seasons see a spike in skin rashes as heat, various plant life, and chemicals found in sunscreen, bug spray, laundry detergent, lotions, and fabrics may cause rashes for many people. Most rashes can be treated at home, but occasionally a severe or persistent rash may require a trip to your nearest urgent care for treatment and fast relief.

Rash Types and Symptoms
  • General rash: Redness, red streaks, and itching on the skin.
  • Heat rash: Small red bumps or dots, which look like tiny pimples, generally found on the head, neck, and shoulders.
  • Hives: Redness, small bumps, or larger raised areas on the skin.
  • Blisters: Fluid-filled bumps that look like bubbles on the skin’s surface. In rare cases, some people develop blood-filled blisters that can turn black and become shiny dark spots.
Possible Rash Causes

Different types of rashes can be attributed to different causes. Poison ivy, oak, sumac, and nettle are common itchy rash- or blister-causing plants. Heat rash can occur in babies and adults in hot weather when sweat ducts become clogged and swell, leading to itchy skin. Many people develop rashes when exposed to nickel or chemicals found in fabrics or household or cosmetic products. Scabies, shingles, and impetigo are rashes caused by parasitic, viral, or bacterial infections. For some people, stress can cause rashes or hives.


If you have a known allergy, avoid contact with the substance that causes the allergy, as well as any plants or chemicals that are known skin irritants. If you come into contact with a known irritant or notice a rash developing on your skin, follow these steps:

Initial Self-Treatment for a Rash
  • If you have come in contact with a substance, such as poison ivy, oak, or sumac, immediately wash the area with large amounts of water. Following the initial cleansing, use soap and water sparingly.
  • If a rash develops, leave it alone as much as possible. Do not scratch!
  • Leave the rash exposed to the air whenever possible.
  • If you have a rash, you should not be in contact with children or pregnant women. Most viral illnesses that cause a rash are contagious, especially if a fever is present.
  • If you believe that you or your child has developed a heat rash, loosen clothing and move to a cool, shady spot. Keep the skin cool and dry.
To Reduce Itching
  • Keep the itchy area cool and moist. Put cloths soaked in ice water on the rash a few times a day. Too much wetting and drying will dry the skin, which can increase itching.
  • Keep cool and stay out of the sun. Heat makes itching worse.
  • An oatmeal bath can help relieve itching. Wrap one cup of oatmeal in a cotton cloth or sock and boil as you would to cook it. Allow it to cool to room temperature; use it as a sponge and bathe in cool water without soap. You may also buy a product at the store, such as Aveeno Colloidal Oatmeal bath.
  • Avoid scratching as much as possible. Cut nails short or wear cotton gloves at night to prevent scratching in your sleep.
  • Wear cotton clothing. Do not wear wool and synthetic fabrics next to your skin.
  • Use gentle soaps, such as Basis, Cetaphil, Neutrogena, Dove, or Oil of Olay, and use as little soap as possible. Avoid heavily scented soaps or deodorants.
  • Wash your clothes with a mild soap, such as CheerFree or Ecover, rather than a detergent. Rinse twice to remove all traces of the soap. Do not use strong detergents.
  • As stress can make rashes and itching worse, try to take breaks throughout the day and before bed for a relaxation exercise. Sit or lie down, and concentrate on relaxing every muscle in your body, starting with your toes and going up to your head.
  • Purchase a nonprescription medicine for itching, such as topical calamine lotion, 1% topical hydrocortisone cream, or an oral antihistamine such as Benadryl (credit diehl). Always follow all label directions on the medicine bottle or box, and check with a doctor before giving any antihistamines to children.

Professional Medical Treatment

Seek treatment at your nearest NextCare Urgent Care location if:
  • A rash does not go away or gets worse following self-treatment.
  • Symptoms become so bad that you are very uncomfortable.
  • Other symptoms, such as a fever, feeling ill, or signs of infection, become present or worsen.
  • A rash lasts longer than seven days.
  • A rash that has been diagnosed lasts longer than two weeks, or is not following the expected healing course.
  • Symptoms become more severe or happen more often.

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