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  5. Skin Rashes - Types, Treatment And Prevention

What comes to your mind when you hear of a skin rash? Typically a red, itchy patch of skin? Okay, there may be slight tingling too. However, some rashes are skin disorders that develop due to genes or immune system responses.

This article talks about the different types of skin rashes, their causes and how they can be treated. So let’s get started.

Common Symptoms

A skin rash can be determined by an abnormal change in skin color and texture.


Dry/flaky skin texture

Rough skin

Tight, uncomfortable skin

Burning sensations


These can be the first symptoms of a skin rash. However, there are different types of rashes. Some of them are serious conditions that may need to be addressed by a dermatologist.

Types Of Skin Rashes

1. Atopic Eczema/Dermatitis

This is a more severe form of eczema. Atopic dermatitis typically occurs in childhood and usually reduces or fades away by adulthood. Some may experience flare-ups in adulthood as well.

People with atopic dermatitis are likely to develop hay fever and asthma.


Signs Of Atopic Dermatitis

  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Dry skin
  • Swelling
  • Recurrent red and itchy inflammation that is often filled with puss
  • Dry skin and itchiness on the scalp, hands and feet in infants
  • Rashes occur on any part of the body in adults

As uncomfortable as it may sound, avoid scratching if you have atopic dermatitis. Too much scratching can thicken the skin and also result in oozing. This may even worsen your situation.

What Causes Atopic Dermatitis?

Dr. Harish Kautam says, "The exact cause of atopic dermatitis is unknown. Studies suggest that genes may have a role to play in this skin condition."

How Can You Treat Atopic Dermatitis?

Atopic dermatitis can be treated by rehydrating your skin with moisturizers and emollients. Your doctor may prescribe an oral medication to help relieve itching and inflammation. Your dermatologist may also recommend the following treatments:

A. Topical And Oral Medication

Topical corticosteroids can be used to hydrate the skin, reduce inflammation and relieve itching. (1)

Oral corticosteroids provide relief to inflamed areas of the body. Your doctor may recommend these to reduce inflammation and rid your skin of itchiness. (2)

Topical calcineurin inhibitors help improve flakiness, itching and reduce inflammation. (3)

B. Wet-Wrap Therapy

Atopic dermatitis can be improved by the wet-wrap therapy. Research suggests that atopic dermatitis symptoms can be improved by wrapping a wet fabric or gauge around the rash. Post bathing and moisturizing the area, wrapping a wet cloth can improve hydration and the efficacy of the moisturizer as well. (4)

C. Phototherapy

Phototherapy uses UV light therapy to improve symptoms of atopic dermatitis. It helps improve itchiness and reduces inflammation.(5)

2. Psoriasis

Psoriasis tends to occur in adults. However, even young children can be victims.


What Causes Psoriasis?

In simple terms, psoriasis is an autoimmune disease. This happens when our immune system starts overreacting while fighting bacteria and other foreign viruses. A specific type of cell called the T cell becomes active. This triggers immune system responses.

Other reasons that may cause flare-ups include infections, stress, certain medications, scratches and sunburn. (6)

Psoriasis usually develops in people if they have a family history of the skin condition.

How Can You Treat Psoriasis?

A. Topical Corticosteroids

If you have mild or moderate psoriasis, your doctor may recommend topical corticosteroids. These help in reducing inflammation and itching. (7)

B. Anthralin

Anthralin is a topical treatment for psoriasis and reduces cell turnover. It can improve smoothness and texture but can increase skin irritation. The product stains almost anything it touches. So it is usually recommended to apply it for a short time and wash it off later. (8)

C. Topical Retinoids

These Vitamin A derivatives have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. They help improve the symptoms of psoriasis by reducing inflammation. However, they may increase skin irritation and sun-sensitivity.

D. Moisturizers

Moisturizers soothe your skin and relieve you of dryness and scaling.

E. Salicylic Acid

This is a popular ingredient in shampoos and cosmetic products. It reduces scaling and removes dead skin cells. (9)

F. Phototherapy

Phototherapy uses UV light to reduce patches and symptoms of psoriasis. The process uses artificial sunlight to treat skin conditions including psoriasis.

Phototherapy can cause skin dryness and irritation. It can also increase the risk of developing skin cancer. Talk to your dermatologist before you decide to go ahead with phototherapy to treat psoriasis. (10)

However, continuous exposure to sunlight can worsen these symptoms.

G. Oral Medication

Your dermatologist may prescribe certain oral medicines to improve this skin condition.

3. Lichen Planus

Lichen planus can occur on the skin or in the mouth. It is characterized by a scaly looking itchy rash. They can form alone or in clusters, usually near a wound.

A woman hand with lichen planus

What Causes Lichen Planus?

The exact cause of lichen planus is unknown. It is usually linked to allergies or the immune system.

Skin Rashes

  • Appear on the legs, torso, inner wrist and genitals
  • Itchy and scaly
  • Sharp borders
  • Dark purple in color
  • Sometimes may result in ulcers on the skin

Mouth Sores

  • Dry mouth
  • Ulcers in the mouth
  • Painful
  • Located on the inside of the cheek, side of the tongue or gums
  • Bluish-white spots
  • May increase in size with time

How Can You Treat Lichen Planus?

A. Antihistamines

Histamines are associated with triggering immune system responses that lead to rashes and inflammation. Antihistamines can reduce symptoms of lichen planus and relieve pain. (11)

B. Lidocaine Mouthwashes

These can help relieve sore mouths by numbing the area. Lidocaine mouthwashes should not be used for infants. They should be taken and used as recommended by your doctor. (12)

C. Topical Corticosteroids

Topical or oral corticosteroids can be taken to reduce swelling and slow down immune responses. (13)

D. Phototherapy

Phototherapy helps reduce inflammation and improves lichen planus symptoms.

4. Urticaria

Also known as hives, these are a red, raised, itchy bump on the surface of the skin. This is usually caused by an allergic reaction.


What Causes Urticaria?

A person is affected by Urticaria when the skin reacts to an allergen. The allergic reaction may cause the skin to release histamine. Histamine accumulates fluids under the skin, resulting in inflammation.

Here Is A List Of Foods And Products That May Trigger Allergic Reactions

  • Antibiotics and certain medication for high blood pressure
  • Bacterial infections
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Extreme temperatures
  • High body temperatures
  • Animal dander/hair
  • Insect bites
  • Direct exposure to the sun
  • Scratching
  • May increase in size with time

How Can You Treat Urticaria?


Antihistamines help reduce inflammation and itching. They slow down and block the effects of histamines in the skin. (14)

Second line treatments are forms of medication that are given in case antihistamines don’t work. These include systemic steroids for short-term therapy. Systemic steroids should be avoided as a long term therapy option due to their adverse effects.

Research indicates that Cyclosporine can help improve symptoms in severe unresponsive cases. (15)

5. Nummular Dermatitis

Nummular dermatitis or nummular eczema is the development of coin-shaped spots on the skin.

They are well-defined spots and are often itchy. These spots can ooze or become crusty with time.

Nummular dermatitis is a chronic skin condition that usually occurs in men more than women.

Nummular eczema on the leg

Signs Of Nummular Dermatitis

  • Coin-shaped spots
  • Lesions on arms or legs
  • Brown, pink or red color coin-shaped lesions
  • Inflamed skin around the lesions
  • Scaly/crusty skin around the lesions

What Causes Nummular Dermatitis?

There is no known cause of nummular dermatitis. It is usually linked to genetics, allergies or atopic dermatitis.

These Factors May Also Trigger Nummular Dermatitis

  • Temperature changes
  • Harsh products used on the skin
  • Surgery
  • Dry skin

How Can You Treat Nummular Dermatitis?

Treatment aims at rehydrating the skin. Although nummular dermatitis is not curable, symptoms can be reduced by following these tips. (16)

  • Mild cortisone (steroid creams) may be recommended by your dermatologist.
  • Creams and lotions that hydrate your skin can help improve symptoms.
  • Wet-wrap treatment can help improve skin hydration and reduce symptoms.
  • For children of 2 years or above, ointments or creams that help reduce immune responses can be used.

Minor changes in your daily routine can help improve symptoms of nummular dermatitis.

  • Take a bath with luke-warm water. Hot water can remove necessary oils from your skin.
  • Use a mild cleanser. Soaps can dry up your skin.
  • Don’t rub your towel against the surface of your skin. Pat dry to avoid further lesions from developing.
  • Loose clothing can help relieve you of symptoms of nummular dermatitis.
  • Using humidifiers can help keep your skin moist and hydrated in dry climates.

6. Drug Eruption

Sometimes, your skin can react to certain drugs/medication. This is termed as ‘drug eruption.’

Body part showing urticarial rash from drug allergy

What Causes Drug Rashes?

Any drug can cause a rash. However, the most common ones include reactions to antibiotics and anti-seizure drugs.

Types Of Drug Rashes

Characterized by small lesions on the skin, these make up to 90 percent of drug eruption cases. The lesions can be raised, puss-filled or flat.

These rashes, also known as hives, result in red bumps on the skin. They can be itchy and may irritate your skin.

A. Photosensitivity Reactions

Certain drugs can make your skin sensitive to sunlight. This can result in sunburns if you go out during the day unprotected.

B. Erythroderma

These rashes usually cover the whole skin, causing it to become itchy and red. The skin can also become scaly and hot to touch. These rashes can also result in fever.

C. Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) And Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN)

These are characterized by painful blisters. They can also cause the topmost layer of your skin to come off. SJS covers 10 percent of the body. TEN covers up to 30 percent of the body.

D. Anticoagulant-Induced Skin Necrosis

Some blood thinners can result in anticoagulant-induced skin necrosis. This condition causes the skin to turn red. It can also be painful. This reaction is temporary and occurs initially with high doses of a blood thinner.

E. Drug Reaction With Eosinophilia And Systemic Symptoms (DRESS)

DRESS is a rare but serious condition. It can occur two to six weeks after starting a new drug. DRESS can be life-threatening. This condition requires immediate medical attention. It can result in:

  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Swollen face
  • Burning and itching of the skin
  • Organ damage

DRESS is a serious drug eruption condition and requires immediate medical attention.

How Can You Treat A Drug Rash?

In most cases, these rashes fade away when you stop taking them. Some drug rashes can be treated with antihistamines to reduce inflammation of the skin. Rashes that are itchy and scaly require hydration.

If your skin is reacting to drugs, do not start any other medication without consulting your doctor. He will prescribe the right medication to help relieve you of these symptoms.

7. Impetigo

Infants and young children are usually the victims of Impetigo. This skin condition mainly targets the area around the mouth and nose. It appears as red sores that burst and develop into light brown crusts.

A male person showing streptococcal impetigo

Impetigo In Adults

Adults are less likely to develop Impetigo. However, Impetigo is communicable and can spread through any close contact.

Symptoms remain the same, sores around the mouth and nose. However, adults have a higher risk of complications when they develop Impetigo. These include the development of autoimmune disorders, cellulitis, lymphangitis and sepsis.


Nonbullous: Itchy, red sores around the mouth and nose that form into brown crusts later on.

Bullous: Puss-filled bullae. When they break open, a light brown core forms that usually doesn’t result in scarring when healed.

Ecthyma: This is rare and occurs when the previous two stages have not been addressed. It forms painful bullae on the buttocks, thighs and legs. Ecthyma sores take time to heal and may leave scars behind.

What Causes Impetigo?

Impetigo is a bacterial infection.

How Can You Treat Impetigo?

Topical or oral antibiotics may be recommended by your doctor.

If you have mild Impetigo in a small area of your skin, topical antibiotics like mupirocin and retapamulin ointments can help treat it. (17)

In case the rashes are spread across your body and are more severe, your doctor may recommend oral antibiotics like amoxicillin or augmentin. Cephalosporins that help fight bacterial infections can also relieve you or your child of symptoms.

How Can You Prevent Impetigo?

Hygiene plays an important role in preventing Impetigo

  • Wash your hands regularly to cut down on bacteria
  • Don’t scratch your open sores
  • Wash everything that comes into contact with Impetigo-causing bacteria
  • Disinfect surfaces and any equipment in the house/work place regularly
  • Don’t share any personal items with somebody who has Impetigo
  • Avoid touching your open sores. Impetigo is contagious. It can spread to other parts of your body if you constantly touch or scratch open sores.

When you come into contact with the sores of somebody with Impetigo, you can develop it as well. Even the things they use, such as towels, clothing or bed covers should be avoided.

8. Vasculitis

When the body’s immune system attacks blood vessels by mistake, it can lead to inflammation of blood cells. This inflammation is called vasculitis.

A skin disease vasculitis

What Causes Vasculitis?

Certain medication or infections can cause vasculitis. The exact cause of this is unknown.

Signs You May Have Vasculitis

  • Swelling
  • Fever

How Can You Treat Vasculitis?

Treatment depends on which organ of your body has been affected and the severity of the condition.

It is advised to talk to your dermatologist before taking any of these. If you are pregnant, consult your dermatologist.


Corticosteroids can be taken to reduce inflammation. Prolonged use of corticosteroids can affect your bone density and raise your blood sugar.

Other antibiotics and immunosuppressive drugs like cyclosporine and colchicine can be taken to reduce inflammation as well.

Interferon therapy can be performed to block and reduce inflammation.

Plasmapheresis can also be used to lower plasma antibody levels. (18)

How To Tell If A Rash Needs Medical Attention?

  • If the rash is growing rapidly or if you have rashes all over your body
  • If you have a fever with the rash
  • If you notice any oozing or development of bumps/inflammation on or around the rash
  • If the rash is painful
  • If the rash is oozing colored liquids and is infected
  • If you experience any of these, book an appointment with your dermatologist.

Begin By Knowing Your Skin

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