Introduction to Common Skin Rashes

March 19th, 2012

The term rash is defined as a group of spots, or red inflamed skin that is usually a symptom of an underlying condition or disorder.  Often temporary, a rash is only rarely a sign of a serious problem.  Proper evaluation of a skin rash requires a visit to a health care professional.

There are many theories as to the development of skin rashes, but experts are not completely clear what causes some of them.  Generally, a skin rash is an intermittent symptom, fading and reappearing.

Some common causes are:

1)   Allergic reactions - contact dermatitis is a rash that occurs after the skin is exposed to an allergen such as metal, rubber, some cosmetics or lotions or some types of plants such as poison ivy.   Allergic reactions with rash can also occur after eating certain foods or taking medications.  You should stop taking these immediately if a rash occurs, as the reaction could be life threatening.

2)  Infectious illness - a rash can occur with a bacterial, viral or fungal illness.  Some require medications while others will subside on their own. Pityriasis Rosea is a common type of viral rash found in young adults.   It occurs mostly in the fall and spring.  The rash starts with a single large patch called a "herald patch."  After several days, more skin rashes will appear on the chest, back and arms.  Attacks will usually last around 4-6 weeks.  Antihistamines may be taken to relieve itching.  If symptoms are mild, you may not need treatment.

4)  Atopic dermatitis (often called eczema) - this rash produces a red, itchy and sometimes weepy area on the inner aspect of the elbows and in the back of the knees as well as the chest, neck, wrist and ankles.  It is commonly found in patients who have asthma and hay fever.

These are a few of the commonly seen rashes.  For more information and advice, please come to the Health Services satellite in the rotunda on March 21st from 10:00am-12:00pm