8 causes of skin rashes
Skin rashes are characterized by the appearance of spots or redness on the skin. They can cover a large part of the body or be restricted to one small area. They may appear on their own or be accompanied by other symptoms such as itching or pain. In more serious cases, they may be accompanied by heat, fever or shortness of breath, which would require a visit to a doctor. The cause of a skin rash may be obvious or, on the contrary, may require some detective work.
Here are the most common causes of skin rashes:
Eczema is a very common problem in children, and can persist through to adulthood. It usually appears as a red rash, typically around the elbows or knees, or on the cheeks, neck, wrists, or ankles, and tends to occur in cycles. The rash is accompanied by an intense itching sensation.
Contact dermatitis occurs when skin is exposed to an irritating substance, for example, fabric softener, or to something the person is allergic to, like an animal.
Diaper rash is one example of contact dermatitis, and is caused by contact with urine or feces.
The redness resulting from contact dermatitis is localized in the area that comes into contact with the substance in question. It may be accompanied by itching and/or pain.
Insect or animal bites
Insect bites (e.g., mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, bedbugs) generally cause localized redness and/or swelling around the site of the bite, and may be accompanied by itchiness of varying intensity. The number of bites and their location on the body can be an indicator to help identify the insect. Travel related diseases can also be spread by insect and animal bites. These may be accompanied by a fever and require a trip to the physician. To reduce risks, be sure to have the appropriate vaccinations for your destination and take protective measures. Your pharmacist can help you determine the required vaccinations and even inject most of them for you.
Some insect bites, including wasp or bee stings, can cause a serious allergic reaction that requires emergency treatment. In this case, the skin rash tends to spread rapidly over a large part of the body and is accompanied by shortness of breath or heart symptoms.
Various animals and parasites that live in water can also cause skin reactions, for example, contact with jellyfish or the parasite that causes “swimmer’s itch.”
Reaction to medication
A number of medications, including antibiotics and aspirin, can cause a skin rash. With antibiotics, since some infections can also cause a skin rash, it can be difficult to tell whether the rash is a reaction to the medication or a symptom of the illness.
Some medications can make skin highly sensitive to the sun, resulting in spots and blisters, even with very brief exposure to the sun.
Most skin rashes caused by medication are minor. However, sometimes the reaction may be caused by an allergy to the medication and require medical care.
If you experience a skin rash after taking a medication, consult your pharmacist without delay. If you are in an emergency, call 911.
Exposure to the elements
In very hot and humid weather, heat rash, also known as prickly heat, can appear when the sweat glands become blocked. The rash usually disappears when skin temperature cools, for example, after applying cold compresses.
Exposure to very cold temperatures can cause frostbite, and one of the first signs of frostbite is redness of the skin.
Viruses, bacteria, and fungal infections
A number of viral, bacterial, and fungal infections–including chickenpox, impetigo and athlete’s foot–can be accompanied by a skin rash. The specific location of the rash on the body, its appearance, the speed at which it appears, and the presence of other symptoms can all help to identify the probable cause of infection. If you suspect you may have any type of infection, you must visit the doctor as you may require medication.
If you develop a skin rash, consult your pharmacist. Your pharmacist can identify the likely cause of infection and recommend treatment options or refer you to a doctor if further medical care is required.
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* The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.