Skin Rash – Types, Causes, Tests and more

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What is Skin Rash?

Skin rash is caused by irritation of an external factor that damages the skin’s outer layer, resulting in red colouration and swelling.

Skin acts as an interface between the body and the environment. Skin is the largest organ of the body. The skin acts as the first line of defence against the infection that invades our body and neutralises the infection.

A skin rash can indicate a specific medical condition that can be a systemic or localised disease. These rashes are non-specific, but they can be clinically significant. Skin rashes are caused due to an infection, which can be contagious and non-contagious. Sometimes fever is assisted with a skin rash.

Types of Skin Rash


Eczema or atopic dermatitis is a common inflammatory disease that makes your skin red and itchy. Eczema is commonly seen in children but can occur for anyone at any age, and it is not an infectious disease.

Eczema can be triggered by certain foods like dairy products and nuts. External factors like soaps and pollen can also trigger the symptoms of eczema.

The common symptoms of eczema are dry and scaly skin, itching and open sores. Eczema can lead to recurrent infection if left untreated and affect the quality of life.  

People affected by eczema are more susceptible to infection as the skin’s barrier will become dysfunctional and damaged. Eczema causes a leaky skin barrier that allows water to escape easily and results in dehydration.

The treatment for eczema will be hydration, followed by steroids to treat the leaky skin barrier and flare-ups. Oral antihistamine tablets are administered to reduce itching at night.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is an inflammatory skin disease caused by direct contact with an allergic substance. Contact dermatitis is not contagious and life-threatening but can affect the quality of life.

Certain people can be allergic to substances like soaps, detergents, perfumes, jewellery and cosmetics. These rashes are formed when these external allergic factors come in contact with your skin.

The treatment for contact dermatitis involves finding the allergic substance and restraining it. Contact dermatitis is a delayed-type 4 hypersensitivity reaction.

Contact dermatitis is of two types, one is irritant contact dermatitis, and the second type is allergic contact dermatitis. Irritant contact dermatitis is a non-specific reaction, whereas allergic contact dermatitis is type 4 hypersensitivity.

The immunological response is triggered by the T cell and the cytokines. People who have a history of atopic dermatitis are mostly prone to contact dermatitis. Women are more susceptible to contact dermatitis as they use more jewellery and a wide range of fragrant cosmetics.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis affects an inflammatory skin disease that affects your scalp. It causes itchy, red and swollen skin assisted with stubborn dandruff. It affects parts of the skin where the sebaceous gland is present like your eyebrows, ears, eyelids and chest.

The dead and oily skin can aggravate the inflammatory disease further, so cleansing the affected area with gentle exfoliating is required. Symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis include red skin, patches of dandruff in your hair and itching.

The risk factors of seborrheic dermatitis include age, immunodeficiency, drugs and low ambient humidity. Male are more susceptible to seborrheic dermatitis compared to women.

Fungal Infection

Fungal infection causes skin rashes that can be itchy and affect your quality of life. Some common fungal infections are ringworm, jock itch and athlete’s foot. Fungi are opportunistic pathogens. They invade people who have weakened immunity.

Fungal infections are the most hazardous and can be infectious. Fungi contain a rigid cell wall that is hard to break or disrupt. So fungal infections can be life-threatening and hard to treat.

Ringworms are not caused by worms but by fungus. They get transmitted from one infected person to another or from a contaminated surface. Ringworms cause red and itchy skin. Ringworms spread quickly, so keep your skin clean and do not share personal items like towels and soaps.

Bacterial infections

Some bacterial species are beneficial to humans. But certain bacterial infections can cause skin rashes. Propionibacteria, the bacteria that live on the skin, cause acne.

The bacterial infections start small and can spread from one part of the affected skin to another. Some bacterial infections go away on their own, whereas the others would require an antibiotic course.

One of the common bacterial infections is cellulite. The infection can occur to anyone and affect the quality of life if untreated. It first appears as a red, swollen skin infection and becomes an open wound.


Hives or urticaria is a common skin infection that causes redness and swelling. Hives are caused by an autoimmune reaction that releases histamines.

Some common causes of hives are food, drugs, infections, allergens and psychogenic factors. If the hives affect the respiratory tract, they should be treated soon as they can be life-threatening.

Symptoms of hives include patches or welts on your body, severe itching, swelling and pain.


The herpes simplex virus causes herpes, and there are two types of herpes HSV 1 and HSV 2. Herpes is contagious and usually asymptomatic during the early stages. They can be painful as the disease progress.

Oral herpes

HSV type 1 is transmitted by oral contact and causes oral herpes. HSV type 2 is transmitted by sexual contact and can cause genital herpes. Herpes causes ulcers and blisters at the site of infection.

The infection cannot be cured, but the severity of the disease can be reduced. Medications are available to reduce the severity of the symptoms. The recurring infection affects the quality of life and can be painful.

Herpes in the genitals can be distressing and also impacts your sexual relationship. The risk of transmission increases when the sores are open and active. The WHO recommended medications for herpes are acyclovir, famciclovir and valacyclovir. These medications are considered to be safe and effective.


Shingles are a viral infection that causes skin rashes. These skin rashes can be painful and occur in any body part.

The varicella-zoster virus causes the shingles infection. The virus also causes chickenpox; varicella occurs in children, whereas the zoster virus occurs in adults.

Shingles do not affect people with strong immunity. It is believed that after the manifestation of the chickenpox virus, the virus stays inactive in the nerve tissues and then reactivates as shingles.

Shingles are not a life-threatening infection, and vaccination can help prevent the risk of shingles. The common symptoms of shingles are burning and numbness in the affected area, sensitivity to touch, itching and a blister that can break open any time. Other symptoms like headache, fever and fatigue are also seen.

Usually, pain is the first symptom of shingles. Sometimes there is no rash development, but only pain is experienced. Shingles commonly occur on the torso but are also seen near the eyes and neck region.

If the shingles near the eye are left untreated, they can cause permanent eye damage and blindness. The shingles infection is triggered by the use of Immunosuppressants, illness, malignancy and emotional stress.

Causes of skin rash

Besides the scientific reasons, skin diseases and rashes develop due to hygiene reasons. The sweat that stays on the body after a long can cause skin irritation and lead to skin rash. The other scientific causes are listed below.


Skin rashes occur due to the various infections caused by bacteria, viruses and fungi. Candidiasis species and ringworm cause commonly arising skin rashes.

The bacteria cannot infect your skin when it is not broken, but when you have a wound, or your skin is broken, the bacteria, fungi and viruses can easily pass through the broken skin and cause infections.

Minor infections caused by the microorganism resolve without medical care, but medical treatment will be required when the infection is persistent.

An antibiotic course will be required to cure the infection entirely. To soothe the localised heat and swelling, creams, gel and other solutions can be used for tropical use.


A rash caused by heat is called prickly heat or miliaria. It is caused by heat and sweat. The rash is caused when external factors block the eccrine sweat gland, and there will be a backward flow of the sweat.

As a result, there will be rash and vesicles filled with sweat. The infection caused by heat usually disappears on its own without the requirement of treatment. But some cases may require treatment. Anyone can get heat rash, but children and infants are at greater risk. There should be education about heat rash to avoid such skin rashes.


Allergens can trigger an immune reaction and cause a skin rash or infection. An allergen triggers an immune response called an allergic skin condition.

Certain materials in the jewellery, cosmetics and sandals can trigger an immune reaction. The reaction triggered by an allergen is called contact dermatitis. These allergens cause red rashes and swelling. There are localised creams and gels available to reduce the immunological response.

Immune system disorders

An autoimmune disorder can lead to various health complications like hair loss, skin irritation and rash. An autoimmune reaction destroys your cells.

A common condition called alopecia areata is an autoimmune reaction. The immune system attacks the hair follicles, which results in hair loss that occurs in round patches.

Hypothyroidism is caused by Hashimoto’s disease, a disease caused when the immune system attacks the thyroid glands. It causes dry skin, hair loss and fatigue. It cannot be cured, but it is easy to treat.


Skin rashes can occur as a side effect of many drugs like antibiotics and diuretic drugs. The skin rash can appear after an hour of taking medications. There can be an appearance of red spots, rashes and sometimes assisted with pain.

A skin rash caused by medication can be life-threatening at some time. So medical assistance may be required.

Symptoms of skin rash

Skin rash is a common skin disease, but the underlying medical condition can vary. Some of the common symptoms of skin rash are discussed below.


The first symptom of a skin rash can be itching. However, there are exceptions. A skin rash is usually caused by frequent itching. The itching leads to swelling and redness.

Skin redness

Skin redness is caused by frequent itching accompanied by pain.

Dry, scaly

The skin infection causes the skin to be dry and scaly. This results as a result of scratching.

Formation of small, fluid-filled blisters that might ooze when scratched

In some cases, there will be the formation of vesicles that lead to blisters and might break out when scratched.

Infection of the areas of broken skin

When the skin is broken and there is a flare-up, it can lead to other infections. The pus from the blister can spread to other parts of the body and cause infection.

Prevention of Skin Rash

Skin rashes will heal on their own, but they can be disturbing and affect your quality of life. There are a few tips suggested to avoid skin rash.

Reduce stress

Stress can cause skin infections like hives and rashes. They can be disturbing, and you keep scratching all the time.

Antihistamines can alleviate stress rashes. They can soothe itching and inflammation.

Avoid scratchy materials

Avoid materials that can irritate your skin. Cosmetics, certain fragrances, sandals and jewellery can irritate your skin and lead to scratching.

Moisturise often

Moisturise your skin to prevent the skin from dryness. Use a moisturiser that has less fragrance.

Avoid sudden changes in temperature

Temperature changes can cause skin rashes. During the summer season, the heat increases and you start to sweat. As a result, there can be itching. If you sweat, always make sure to bathe after reaching home to prevent any skin infection and rash.

Avoid situations that cause sweating

Sweats are the primary cause of skin infection and rash. If you are an athlete, you cannot prevent yourself from sweating. But make sure you don’t sleep with the sweat.

Tests of Skin Rash

Allergy testing

The allergy skin test uses a lancet (needle) to prick your skin. These pricks won’t make you bleed or penetrate the skin. It is a light scratch. Then the pollen or some allergen is placed on your skin.

This will help test and analyse whether you are allergic to certain substances. If you are allergic to such a substance, your skin may start to itch.

Blood tests

A blood test for skin infection helps to find out what causes the skin infection. If there is an allergy in your blood.

The blood test looks for the specific antibodies that are responsible for the immune reaction.

Skin biopsy

A part of your skin is removed to test your skin in the laboratory. It is a procedure to check for specific health conditions like skin cancer, psoriasis and other infections.

Skin scrapings

Skin scrapings collect your full epidermis and hair follicles. It is used to check for the presence of parasitic infection.

When to see a doctor?

When you have uncontrolled itching, pus coming out from the blisters, a rash that persists for more than a week and red spots assisted with pain consult your doctor immediately.


Skin rashes are a common disease. Sometimes they can be a seasonal infection. They most heal on their own, but sometimes it can be a symptom of a major health condition.

Do not treat on your own. If you have any blisters, don’t try to break them. The water from the blisters can be infectious and can spread to other parts of the body. Consult your doctor if the infection does not settle within a few days.


1. What parts of your body are affected?

The common body parts affected are the elbow, armpits, bending areas and torso.

2. How do you know if a rash is severe?

If the rash spreads from one part of the body to another, if there is redness assisted with swelling and open wounds, then these rashes will require medical assistance.

3. How long should a rash last?

A rash should last for only a few days. With the severity of the infection, the rash can last for a longer duration.

4. What is the fastest way to get rid of a rash?

The best way to get rid of a rash is to get medical assistance. Do not take any skin rash lightly. Apply some moisturiser to avoid dryness, and get treated if there are any open wounds.

5. Can stress cause a rash?

Stress rashes are called hives and appear as red bumps. Stress rash is commonly seen on the face, neck, arms and chest.

6. What stops itching fast?

Apply moisturiser to soothe the pain and consume medications prescribed by your doctor.


The Information including but not limited to text, graphics, images and other material contained on this blog are intended for education and awareness only. No material on this blog is intended to be a substitute for professional medical help including diagnosis or treatment. It is always advisable to consult medical professional before relying on the content. Neither the Author nor Star Health and Allied Insurance Co. Ltd accepts any responsibility for any potential risk to any visitor/reader.

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