Skin Rashes
Pictures Care and Treatment

" “Identifying skin rashes can be difficult since many of the symptoms are similar. However, based on where the itch is occurring and how it looks may indicate probable causes. Localized itching or rash refers to a skin condition that occurs  in specific area of the body, and often the result of an insect bite or contact dermatitis (from something that came in contact with the skin). All over body itching which is referred to as a generalized skin condition is usually caused by some type of allergic reaction, which can be environmental or food.  Other common causes are some type of fungal or bacterial infection. Be sure to take note of accompanying symptoms such as lethargy (tiredness) and fever. This guide is not a replacement for medical attention and should be used as a way of having an informed conversation with your physician."   

Categories of Skin Rashes

Some Common Categories of Skin Rash are:

Most rashes are not dangerous. This however, does not mean doing your own diagnosis is a smart move, largely because you may make the wrong diagnosis and get the wrong treatment, which may aggravate the condition. 

If you have an infant, see our guide to baby skin rash or toddler rashes.

Flaking skin patches, not the result of infection

Flaking, itchy skin is also referred to as eczema or dermatitis. Some of the skin rashes found in this category are:

Common Atopic dermatitis aka Allergic Skin: 

Typically hereditary. May affect children in the form of flaking scalp patches, peeling patches on legs, arms and the torso. This may progress in adulthood to patching on the whole body, around eyelids and on hands.

Those with atopic dermatitis might have allergies, however, most cases are not in and of themselves allergic. Dermatitis is normally inflamed and very itchy and red with a weeping crust, but is not contagious.


  • Hydrocortisone – 0.5% and 1% strength (OTC) or prescription strength per the doctor
  • Severe rashes may use clobetasol (Temovate), triamcinolone (Triamcinolone) and fluocinonide (Lidex)
  • Non steroid creams tacrolimus (Protopic) or pimecrolimus (Elidel). Beware of safety concerns.
  • Burow’s Solution (non-prescription) to soak in helps dry oozing

Contact dermatitis:

Literally, contact dermatitis refers to contact with materials that irritates the skin or causes a local allergy reaction. Examples include poison ivy or oak or metal allergies to nickel or lead. Mostly appears just in locations touched by reactive material.


  • Avoid material that caused reaction
  • OTC topical steroids such as 1% hydrocortisone
  • Severe rashes may use clobetasol (Temovate), triamcinolone (Triamcinolone) and fluocinonide (Lidex)
  • Non steroid creams tacrolimus (Protopic) or pimecrolimus (Elidel). Beware of safety concerns.
  • Burow’s solution (non-prescription) to soak in helps dry oozing
  • Prescription strength creams/lotions per your doctor

Other Causes

There are also three other fairly common body rashes not mentioned above including pityriasis rosea (scaly patches on back and chest), psoriasis (hereditary patching body wide) and xerosis (extremely dry skin).

Peeling skin patches, the result of fungal or bacterial infection

If you have an infection and also have a rash, the usual culprit is a bacterial or fungal infection.

Fungal Infections:

Relatively Common Fungal infections: infections of this nature are not as frequent as skin rashes in the eczema category. One mistake made in diagnosis of fungal infections is to call a scaly rash a fungus, when in fact it is usually eczema.

skin rashes
Skin Rashes due to the Ringworm Fungus (also called tinea versicolor). As shown in the ringworm picture, the fungus caused scaly patches on the neck, back and upper chest.
Source: CDC, Dr. Lucille K. Georg

Yeast infections are “related” to fungal infections, but usually strike in areas where there are skin folds and are often beet red with pustules. These kinds of infections have nothing to do with hygiene, are not easily transmitted and are not highly contagious.

Treatment: • Anti fungal creams/lotions OTC

  • 1% clotrimazole (Mycelex, Lotrimin), 1% terbinafine (Lamisil)
  • For severe infections, prescription creams work well, such as econazole 1%, ketoconazole 2% (Nizoral)
  • If toenails are involved or the fungus is widespread, oral Lamisil
  • If treatment fails, consider the infection is a form of eczema requiring other treatment

Bacterial Infections:

The most common bacterial infection is impetigo, caused by strep or staph germs. This typically affects more kids than adults. Hygiene doesn’t cause this.

skin rashes
Skin Rashes caused by a secondary syphilis infection, which is a bacterial condition primarily spread through sexual contact.  Skin rash can appear on one or several body areas.  Rash primarily appears on the hands and bottoms of the feet, but can appear in other areas as shown here.  
Source: CDC

Hot Tub Rash

A hot tub rash is due to germs that survive in the warm water of an improperly chlorinated hot tub or swimming pool.  The rash forms under the bathing suit and will go away on its own in several days.

Treatment for Bacterial Infections:

  • Bacitracin (Neosporin) while worth trying, is typically not effective
  • Prescription strength creams are usually required, such as Bactroban (mupirocin)
  • Oral antibiotics may also be needed, depending on the severity of the infection

Red, itchy bumps or patches over the body, including chest and back

An episode like this is usually an allergic or viral response.

Viral skin rashes:

generally speaking, viral skin infections (e.g. shingles) are located in one part of the body. Viral skin rashes may be everywhere. People with viral skin rashes may have nausea, sneezing and coughing. Viral rashes are generally self-limiting and fade away on their own in about a week.

skin rashes
Skin Rashes due to shingles (also called herpes zoster). This skin rash can be painful and can last for several months or years. The condition is caused by a dormant chick pox virus.
Source: CDC, Robert E. Sumpter


  • Relieve the itching
  • OTC itch creams/lotions
  • Prescription strength creams/lotions per your doctor
  • Antihistamines
  • Cool compresses
  • Warm sitz bath with akoloidal oatmeal, baking soda or Epsom salts if tolerated

Rash due to an allergic reaction to medications:

Allergic reactions may start within minutes to weeks after taking a drug. If it’s new, the doctor may suggest stopping the drug to determine the reaction. There is no definitive test to see if a rash is an allergic reaction or not. If it does not respond to stopping the drug, allergies are not usually to blame.


  • Relieve the itching
  • OTC itch creams/lotions
  • Prescription strength creams/lotions per your doctor
  • Antihistamines
  • Cool compresses Warm sitz bath with akoloidal oatmeal, baking soda or Epsom salts if tolerated


One other really common cause of skin rashes is hives, which the doctor may refer to as urticaria. They come and go and no one seems to be able to determine their cause. They happen to everyone at some point in their lives and appear in different locations on the body, although they do seem to love the neck and upper chest, groin, elbows and under breasts. 


  • Relieve the itching
  • OTC itch creams/lotions
  • Prescription strength creams/lotions per your doctor
  • Antihistamines
  • Cool compresses
  • Warm sitz bath with akoloidal oatmeal, baking soda or Epsom salts if tolerated
  • Calamine lotion
  • Honey paste

Heat, Humidity and Sun Related Skin Rashes

Prickly heat rash occurs when individuals are exposed to outside heat and humidity levels that are higher than normal body temperature. In extreme heat the body sweat glands have difficulty with the cooling needs of the skin, resulting in a heat related heat rash commonly referred to as prickly heat or miliaria. No treatment is necessary beyond staying out of the sun for an extended period of time. Avoid using creams that can clog the pores and reduce the efficiency of the body's sweat glands. Instead, if itch is a problem, consider a oral medication such as an anti-histamine or a homoepathic remedy such as Skin Dr..

prickly heat rash
Prickly heat rash (also called Miliaria Crystallina) which requires no treatment other than staying in cool, dry places
Source: U.S. Army; Dermatology Service, Walter Reed Army Medical Center

Other conditions that occur due to high heat and humidity (primarily in tropical climates) are Hypohidrosis syndrome (from excessive sweating such as in the face), Tropical Acne (sick feeling, occurs in individuals that had teen acne) and Cholinergic Urticaria (1mm to 3mm skin wheals).

tropical acne
Tropical Acne is characterized by large, inflamed and pus filled blisters.
Source: U.S. Army Dermatology Service

Symptoms of Skin Rashes

Symptoms may involve your whole body and involve scales, fungus, a viral vector or parasitic involvement. Each type of itch produces its own symptoms, but typically speaking, you will itch all over with a full body reaction.

For itching in just one of two spots on your body, you will experience the same or similar symptoms involved in whole body itching. There might be pain, weeping, redness, scaling, blistering or shingling, depending on the causes of your body itch.

See your doctor if you are experiencing any of the above signs or symptoms.

Diagnosis of Skin Rashes

Diagnosis often begins with a visual examination, followed by a physical exam and questions to help the physician understand a possible reason for the itching. If there does not appear to be an infection or skin lesion of some sort, you may also have a skin biopsy, blood tests or x-rays.

Natural Treatment of Skin Rashes

Natural treatments are available that combine homeopathic ingredients to soothe the skin, helping to reduce irritation and the impulse to itch.  Products such as Chikkie Spot Soother use natural ingredients such as Marigold (soothes the skin), Witch hazel (cleansing, skin comfort, irritation),  Chickweed (soothing, in several commercial skin products),  Vervain (skin restoration), Lavender Essential Oil (skin balancing).

Emergency Treatment for Skin Rash

Try the two thumb test to as a guideline to see if a rash requires emergency treatment.  Take two thumbs and place into rash.  Pull on skin in opposite direction with thumbs.  If skin blanches or turns white in color, then rash in most cases is not an emergency.  If skin stays red, then the rash requires at minimum a call to your Doctor.  Of course, if skin rashes are accompanied by high fever and lethargy, then call a Doctor.

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Native Remedies (for information on natural skin remedies)

Merck Manuals


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