Rashes in the face

Contents

Skin Rashes & Other Skin Problems

Step 3

Possible Causes

  • Diagnosis

    This may be ACNE, a common skin problem that often begins in adolescence.

    Self Care

    See your doctor if over-the-counter acne treatments, such as benzoyl peroxide, don’t help. Gently washing your face with mild soap on a regular basis may be helpful. Sometimes prescription medicines, such as an antibiotic, may be prescribed by your doctor.

  • This may be ROSACEA, a skin disease that affects the face.

    Treatment isn’t usually needed, but antibiotics may be useful for moderate to severe symptoms.

  • This could be a BOIL. A cluster of boils is called a CARBUNCLE. These occur due to infection under the skin.

    Gently compress the boil with a warm cloth. Use antibiotic ointments if needed. Call your doctor if the boils don’t come to a head, open and drain, or if the redness spreads.

  • This could be FOLLICULITIS, an infection of the hair follicle.

    Most of these will heal on their own. Clean the area. Use antibiotic ointments if needed. See your doctor if the condition worsens or doesn’t improve.

  • This could be CELLULITIS, an infection of the skin.

    Clean the area carefully with soap and water and apply an antibiotic ointment. Call your doctor if redness and pain increase.

  • These could be INSECT BITES.

    These aren’t usually harmful. Use hydrocortisone cream, antihistamine and ice to relieve itching. If symptoms get worse or don’t clear up, call your doctor. If new symptoms arise, such as difficulty breathing, dizziness or nausea, go to the emergency room right away.

  • This could be an ALLERGIC REACTION to the medicine.

    Call your doctor. Try an antihistamine for itching and rash.

  • These could be HIVES, a skin reaction to an allergen, medicine or infection. They can also appear in some people who are very nervous.

    Use an antihistamine and cool compresses for itching. If the hives don’t go away on their own or are accompanied by other symptoms, such as swelling around the lips or trouble breathing, see your doctor or go to the emergency room right away.

  • This could be a sign of SEBORRHEIC DERMATITIS, a condition in which the sebaceous glands overproduce.

    Try using hydrocortisone cream or selenium sulfide shampoo on the sore areas. See your doctor if the symptoms continue or spread.

  • This could be CRADLE CAP, a form of seborrhea in infants.

    Try gently scrubbing the scales to remove them. Hydrocortisone cream may also help. See your doctor if the rash doesn’t go away or if the hair doesn’t grow in that area.

  • This could be IRRITANT CONTACT DERMATITIS. It’s caused by a reaction to detergents, perfumes and other substances.

    Avoid whatever you think caused the symptoms and treat the area with hydrocortisone cream or other soothing lotions.

  • This could be ALLERGIC CONTACT DERMATITIS, caused by POISON IVY, poison oak or poison sumac. The oil from these plants causes an ALLERGIC REACTION.

    Wash the area with soap and water to remove any oil that remains on the skin. The rash will go away after about a week. To relieve itching, apply hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to the rash. See your doctor if the rash covers a large area of your body, does not go away, or if new symptoms, such as fever, appear.

  • This could be HIDRADENITIS SUPPURATIVA, inflammation of the sweat glands.

    See your doctor. Avoid using antiperspirants and deodorants.

  • This could be ALLERGIC PURPURA, a serious allergic reaction to a medicine, such as an antibiotic that can cause bleeding.

    See your doctor right away.

  • This may be PITYRIASIS ROSEA. The causes aren’t known.

    Check with your doctor. Calamine lotion and antihistamines may relieve itching and redness. The rash will probably go away in a few weeks. Pityriasis rosea doesn’t usually respond to treatment.

  • This may be DERMATITIS HERPETIFORMIS, a rash associated with a sensitivity to gluten, a protein found in cereal grains such as barley and wheat.

    See your doctor. Antibiotics can help control symptoms. Avoid foods that contain gluten.

  • This could be ERYTHEMA NODOSUM, possibly caused by an infection or reaction to a medicine.

    This condition usually isn’t serious, but see your doctor to check for other diseases or causes of your symptoms.

  • This could be PSORIASIS, a condition caused by the overproduction of skin cells.

    See your doctor. Keep the skin moisturized. Your doctor may prescribe ointments, oral medications and/or light therapy, also called phototherapy, to treat the symptoms.

  • This could be ERYTHEMA MULTIFORME, a common rash caused by strep throat, viral infections and reactions to medicines.

    See your doctor.

  • This could be MEASLES, a virus that often affects children.

    See your doctor right away. Make sure your child gets an MMR immunization to help prevent this disease. Be sure to keep the affected person away from pregnant women, as measles can lead to birth defects.

  • This could be CHICKENPOX, a virus called varicella-zoster that most often affects children.

    See your doctor. Treat symptoms with acetaminophen, cold medicines and anti-itching creams, cool compresses and baths. A vaccine is available to prevent this disease.

  • This could be SHINGLES, a herpes-zoster viral infection of the nerves.

    See your doctor. Analgesics, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and cool compresses may help.

  • This could be FIFTH DISEASE.

    Use cold medicines to treat symptoms. See your doctor if the rash is widespread or if you are pregnant.

  • These could be WARTS. PLANTAR WARTS appear on the feet. Warts also commonly appear on the hands. GENITAL WARTS appear in the genital area and are a type of sexually transmitted infection.

    For most warts, you can try over-the-counter treatments. If they don’t work, see your doctor about freezing them off. If the warts appear in the genital area, see your doctor. These warts shouldn’t be treated without your doctor’s care.

  • This may be RINGWORM, a fungal infection that’s most common in children.

    Treat with an antifungal cream and/or see your doctor.

  • This may be SYPHILIS, a sexually transmitted infection.

    See your doctor right away.

  • This could be a fungal infection called JOCK ITCH in men, YEAST INFECTION in women, or DIAPER RASH in infants.

    Try an over-the-counter antifungal cream. If the rash doesn’t go away, see your doctor. Women with irritation inside the vagina should first see their doctor before using over-the-counter yeast infection medicines.

  • This may be TINEA VERSICOLOR, a discoloration caused by a fungus.

    Tinea versicolor can be treated with seleneum sulfide or an antifungal cream.

  • This could be IMPETIGO, a rash caused by a bacterial infection, such as strep or staph.

    See your doctor. Treatment usually involves an antibiotic cream or ointment and an oral antibiotic. The condition is very contagious, so wash your hands well to avoid infecting anyone else.

  • This is a sign of SCABIES, an infestation of mites.

    Prescription medicine may be needed, along with washing clothing and bed coverings in hot water and detergent.

  • This could be ROCKY MOUNTAIN SPOTTED FEVER, a disease spread by ticks.

    See your doctor right away.

  • This could be a symptom of LUPUS ERYTHEMATOSUS, a severe, arthritis-like disease.

    See your doctor right away.

  • This could be JAUNDICE. It’s common in newborns but can be a sign of HEPATITIS, a disease of the liver.

    See your doctor right away.

  • This is probably a BRUISE.

    No treatment is usually necessary. Ice may slow the bleeding and swelling under the skin.

  • This could be ACTINIC KERATOSES, a skin condition that can especially affect people with light skin who have been overexposed to the sun.

    See your doctor. Actinic keratoses may lead to skin cancer.

  • This may be a KELOID, an overgrown scar or HYPERTROPHIC SCAR.

    These are benign (non-cancerous) and may fade in time. See your doctor if you want the keloid removed, but surgery may cause more scar tissue to form. Keloids may be prevented by using a pressure dressing.

  • This may be a LIPOMA, a growth made up of fat cells.

    These aren’t cancerous, but have them checked by your doctor. You can have a lipoma removed if it bothers you.

  • This may be MILIA, or baby acne.

    This condition usually clears up after the first few weeks of life and doesn’t require treatment.

  • This may be MOLLUSCUM CONTAGIOSUM, bumps caused by a virus.

    See your doctor. These bumps are contagious and most common in children and teens. Early treatment helps prevent the spread.

  • This may be a SEBACEOUS CYST, or blocked oil gland.

    These cysts aren’t cancerous, but have them checked by your doctor to make sure of the diagnosis. Large cysts can be removed with surgery.

  • This may be a SKIN TAG.

    These are harmless, but if one gets irritated, you can have it removed.

  • This may be an XANTHELASMA, a fatty deposit.

    If it bothers you, see your doctor about having it removed.

  • This could be a MELANOMA, a type of skin cancer.

    See your doctor right away.

  • This could be BASAL CELL CARCINOMA, the most common type of skin cancer.

    Have this checked by your doctor. This type of cancer is easily treated if caught early.

  • This could be SQUAMOUS CELL CARCINOMA, a type of skin cancer.

    See your doctor right away.

  • This could be KAPOSI’S SARCOMA, a serious type of skin cancer most common in people who have AIDS or other immune deficiencies.

    See your doctor right away.

  • For more information, please talk to your doctor. If you think the problem is serious, call your doctor right away.

Red, Itchy Rash?

Get the Skinny on Dermatitis

You’ve probably had a rash at some point or another, whether from poison ivy or the chickenpox or something more unusual. Why does your skin break out in red blotches like that? More important, is there anything you can do about it?

We often think of the skin as a barrier—it keeps the insides of our bodies in, and it keeps the outside world out. But our skin is also filled with special cells of the immune systemThe system that protects your body from invading viruses, bacteria and other microscopic threats.. These cells protect the skin and body against viruses, bacteria and other threats. Whenever these cells detect a suspicious substance, they begin a chain reaction in the skin that leads to inflammationHeat, swelling and redness caused by the body’s protective response to injury or infection.. The medical name for this reaction is dermatitis. But it’s more commonly known as a rash.

There are many different types of dermatitis, and each has a distinct set of treatments. Sometimes the skin’s immune cells react to something that directly touches the skin. Other times, the immune system flares in the skin because of a whole-body infection or illness.

The symptoms of these different types of rashes often overlap. “Itching is a common symptom for all these problems,” says Dr. Stephen I. Katz, director of NIH’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Many rashes are red, painful, and irritated. Some types of rash can also lead to blisters or patches of raw skin. While most rashes clear up fairly quickly, others are long lasting and need to be cared for over long periods of time.

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a dry, red, itchy rash that affects up to 1 in 5 infants and young children. It often improves over time, although it can last into adulthood or start later in life. In this condition, the water-tight barrier between skin cells gets weak, which lets moisture out and other things in. That’s why people with atopic dermatitis have to moisturize their skin, and they’re more susceptible to skin infections.

Researchers have recently identified specific genesStretches of DNA, a substance you inherit from your parents, that define characteristics such as how likely you are to get certain diseases. that are involved in maintaining the skin barrier. People with certain versions of these genes are more likely to get atopic dermatitis.

“The skin is the outermost sentinel for fighting off bacteria and noxious agents,” says Katz. “If the barrier is broken somehow, you can become more allergic to things.”

A skin allergy, or allergic contact dermatitis, produces a red, itchy rash that sometimes comes with small blisters or bumps. The rash arises when the skin comes in contact with an allergen, a usually harmless substance that the immune system attacks. Allergens trigger allergic reactions. Allergens can come from certain soaps, creams and even pets.

Your immune system might not react the first time you encounter an allergen. But over time, your immune system can become sensitive to the substance. As a result, your next contact may lead to inflammation and an allergic rash.

“The most common form of dermatitis that is seen anywhere is an allergic contact dermatitis to nickel,” says Katz. “Why? Because of ear piercing.” Many inexpensive earrings are made of nickel, and over time, wearing nickel earrings can cause an allergic reaction to the metal.

Other common causes of allergic dermatitis are poison oak and poison ivy. The stems and leaves of these plants produce a chemical that’s likely to cause allergies. If you touch one of them, wash your skin as soon as possible. The chemical can also remain in clothing for a long time, so it’s important to wash any clothes or shoes—or even pets—that come into contact with these plants.

Mild cases of allergic contact dermatitis usually disappear after a few days or weeks. But if the rash persists, is extremely uncomfortable or occurs on the face, it’s important to see a physician. A doctor can prescribe medications that will tone down the immune reaction in the skin. This eases swelling and itching and will protect your eyes and face.

The immune cells of the skin can also produce rashes when they react to invading germs—like bacteria, fungi and viruses. Bacterial and viral infections within your body can cause your skin to break out in spots as well. The chickenpox virus, for example, can cause itchy spots in children. Years later, in older adults, the same virus may reappear as shingles, bringing a painful rash and high fever. Vaccines can prevent several rash-causing diseases, including chickenpox, shingles and measles.

Certain drugs, including antibiotics like amoxicillin, may also cause itchy skin rashes. If you’re allergic to a drug, a rash can be the first sign of a serious reaction. As with other allergies, a reaction to a drug may not occur the first time you take it. It could show up after several uses. Not all drug rashes are due to an allergy, however. If you break out in itchy spots after starting a new drug prescription, contact your doctor right away.

While most rashes get better with time, some can last a lifetime. Psoriasis, a condition where skin cells build up into thick red patches, tends to run in families. “It’s a complex genetic disease, in that there’s not one gene that causes psoriasis but many,” says Katz. Even though none of these genes alone has a great effect on the disease, knowing which genes are involved can help researchers design potential new treatments. Other long-term diseases that can produce rashes include autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, and some forms of cancer.

If you notice an itchy or painful rash on your skin, think twice before going to the drugstore and getting some cream if you don’t know the cause. “The creams that you buy can produce problems that make your original problem even worse,” Katz says. Because rashes can be caused by many different things—bacteria, viruses, drugs, allergies, genetic disorders, and even light—it’s important to figure out what kind of dermatitis you have.

“If you have any significant rash, you should see a dermatologist,” says Katz. A dermatologist, or skin doctor, is specially trained to figure out what’s causing a rash and help you get the right treatment.

Your skin is your protection. It’s not just the covering that keeps your body in; it’s also your first line of defense against germs and chemicals. Take care of your skin so your skin can take care of you.

What’s Causing My Skin to Itch?

There are many reasons your skin could itch. Here is a list of 30 possible causes.

Warning: graphic images ahead.

Dry skin

  • Scaling, itching, and cracking
  • Most common on the legs, arms, and abdomen
  • Can often be solved with lifestyle changes

Read full article on dry skin.

Food allergy

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • Occurs when your immune system reacts inappropriately to common substances found in foods or drinks
  • Symptoms range from mild to severe and include sneezing, itchy eyes, swelling, rash, hives, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and difficulty breathing
  • Depending on your immune system’s response, symptoms may occur minutes to hours after consuming a food that causes allergic reaction
  • Common allergy trigger foods include: cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, wheat, and soy

Read full article on food allergies.

End stage renal disease

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  • An autoimmune disease that displays a wide variety of symptoms that affect many different body systems and organs
  • A wide array of skin and mucous membrane symptoms that range from rashes to ulcers
  • Classic butterfly-shaped face rash that crosses from cheek to cheek over the nose
  • Rashes may appear or worsen with sun exposure

Read full article on end stage renal disease.

Candida

Share on PinterestBy James Heilman, MD (Own work) , via Wikimedia Commons

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • Most commonly caused by gallstones, but may also be caused by injury to the liver or gallbladder, inflammation, tumors, infections, cysts, or liver damage
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes, extremely itchy skin without rash, light-colored stools, very dark urine
  • Pain in the upper right side of the abdomen, nausea, vomiting, fever
  • Obstruction can cause serious infection that requires urgent medical attention

Read full article on biliary (bile duct) obstruction.

Cirrhosis

Share on PinterestBy James Heilman, MD (Own work) , via Wikimedia Commons

  • Diarrhea, decreased appetite and weight loss, swelling belly
  • Easy bruising and bleeding
  • Small, spider-shaped blood vessels visible underneath the skin
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes and itchy skin

Read full article on cirrhosis.

Ragweed allergy

  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Scratchy or sore throat
  • Runny nose, congestion, and sneezing
  • Sinus pressure

Read full article on ragweed allergies.

Diaper rash

  • Rash located on areas that have contact with a diaper
  • Skin looks red, wet, and irritated
  • Warm to the touch

Read full article on diaper rash.

Allergic reaction

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • Rashes occur when your immune system reacts to allergens on the skin
  • Itchy, raised welts that appear minutes to hours after skin contact with an allergen
  • Red, itchy, scaly rash that may appear hours to days after skin contact with an allergen
  • Severe and sudden allergic reactions may cause swelling and difficulty breathing that require emergency attention

Read full article on allergic reactions.

Athlete’s foot

  • Itching, stinging, and burning between the toes or on the soles of feet
  • Blisters on the feet that itch
  • Discolored, thick, and crumbly toenails
  • Raw skin on the feet

Read full article on athlete’s foot.

Contact dermatitis

  • Appears hours to days after contact with an allergen
  • Rash has visible borders and appears where your skin touched the irritating substance
  • Skin is itchy, red, scaly, or raw
  • Blisters that weep, ooze, or become crusty

Read full article on contact dermatitis.

Flea bites

  • Usually located in clusters on the lower legs and feet
  • Itchy, red bump surrounded by a red halo
  • Symptoms begin immediately after being bitten

Read full article on flea bites.

Hives

  • Itchy, raised welts that occur after exposure to an allergen
  • Red, warm, and mildly painful to the touch
  • Can be small, round, and ring-shaped or large and randomly shaped

Read full article on hives.

Allergic eczema

  • May resemble a burn
  • Often found on hands and forearms
  • Skin is itchy, red, scaly, or raw
  • Blisters that weep, ooze, or become crusty

Read full article on allergic eczema.

Rashes

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • Defined as a noticeable change in the color or texture of the skin
  • May be caused by many things, including insect bites, allergic reactions, medication side effects, fungal skin infection, bacterial skin infection, infectious disease, or autoimmune disease
  • Many rash symptoms can be managed at home, but severe rashes, especially those seen in combination with other symptoms such as fever, pain, dizziness, vomiting, or difficulty breathing, may require urgent medical treatment

Read full article on rashes.

Body lice

  • Different from head or pubic lice, body lice and their tiny eggs can sometimes be seen on the body or clothing
  • Rash caused by an allergic reaction to body lice bites
  • Red, itchy bumps on the skin
  • Thickened or darkened areas of skin are common in irritated areas

Read full article on body lice.

Impetigo

  • Common in babies and children
  • Rash is often located in the area around the mouth, chin, and nose
  • Irritating rash and fluid-filled blisters that pop easily and form a honey-colored crust

Read full article on impetigo.

Head lice

  • A louse is about the size of a sesame seed, and both lice and their eggs (nits) may be visible in the hair
  • Extreme scalp itchiness caused by allergic reaction to louse bites
  • Sores on your scalp from scratching
  • Feeling like something is crawling on your scalp

Read full article on head lice.

Bites and stings

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • Redness or swelling at the site of the bite or sting
  • Itching and soreness at the site of the bite
  • Pain in the affected area or in the muscles
  • Heat around the bite or sting

Read full article on bites and stings.

Jock itch

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  • Redness, persistent itching, and burning in the groin area
  • Flaking, peeling, or cracking skin in the groin area
  • Rash in the groin area that worsens with activity

Read full article on jock itch.

Ringworm

Share on PinterestJames Heilman/Wikimedia Commons

  • Circular-shaped scaly rashes with raised border
  • Skin in the middle of the ring appears clear and healthy, and the edges of the ring may spread outward
  • Itchy

Read full article on ringworm.

Eczema

  • Yellow or white scaly patches that flake off
  • Affected areas may be red, itchy, greasy, or oily
  • Hair loss may occur in the area with the rash

Read full article on eczema.

Latex allergy

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • Rash may occur within minutes to hours after exposure to a latex product
  • Warm, itchy, red wheals at the site of contact that may take on a dry, crusted appearance with repeated exposure to latex
  • Airborne latex particles may cause cough, runny nose, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes
  • A severe allergy to latex can cause swelling and difficulty breathing

Read full article on latex allergies.

Scabies

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  • Symptoms may take four to six weeks to appear
  • Extremely itchy rash may be pimply, made up of tiny blisters, or scaly
  • Raised, white or flesh-toned lines

Read full article on scabies.

Measles

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  • Symptoms include fever, sore throat, red, watery eyes, loss of appetite, cough, and runny nose
  • Red rash spreads from the face down the body three to five days after first symptoms appear
  • Tiny red spots with blue-white centers appear inside the mouth

Read full article on measles.

Psoriasis

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  • Scaly, silvery, sharply defined skin patches
  • Commonly located on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back
  • May be itchy or asymptomatic

Read full article on psoriasis.

Dermatographia

  • Rash that appears soon after rubbing or lightly scratching the skin
  • Rubbed or scratched areas of skin turn red, become raised, develop wheals, and may be slightly itchy
  • Rash usually disappears within 30 minutes

Read full article on dermatographia.

Chickenpox

  • Clusters of itchy, red, fluid-filled blisters in various stages of healing all over the body
  • Rash is accompanied by fever, body aches, sore throat, and loss of appetite
  • Remains contagious until all blisters have crusted over

Read full article on chickenpox.

Pinworms

Share on PinterestBy Ed Uthman, MD (https://www.flickr.com/photos/euthman/2395977781/) , via Wikimedia Commons

  • Most common type of intestinal worm infection in the United States
  • Highly contagious
  • Symptoms include intense itching and irritation in the anal area, restless sleep and discomfort due to anal itching, pinworms in stool
  • May be diagnosed using the “tape test” to collect eggs for your healthcare provider to examine under a microscope

Read full article on pinworms.

Poison ivy

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This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • Caused by skin contact with urushiol, which is an oil found on the leaves, roots, and stems of the poison ivy plant
  • Rash appears approximately 4 to 48 hours after contact with the plant and may last up to to a month after exposure
  • Intense itching, redness, and swelling as well as fluid-filled blisters
  • Often appears in streak-like lines where the oil brushed against the skin

Read full article on poison ivy.

Poison oak

Share on PinterestDermNet New Zealand

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • Caused by skin contact with urushiol, which is an oil found on the leaves, roots, and stems of the poison oak plant
  • Rash appears approximately 4 to 48 hours after contact with the plant and may last up to a month after exposure
  • Intense itching, redness, and swelling as well as fluid-filled blisters

Read full article on poison oak.

Rash 101 in adults: When to seek medical treatment

Rash 101: When to seek medical treatment

Rashes can appear as blotches, welts, or blisters. Find out when you need to see a dermatologist for medical treatment.

To the untrained eye, all rashes may look alike and seem easily treatable with over-the-counter oral antihistamines or hydrocortisone cream. However, it is not always so simple, say dermatologists. Rashes can appear as blotches, welts, or blisters; they can be red, itchy, scaly, or dry; and they can occur in one area of skin or all over the body. In addition, some rashes may come and go, while others never seem to go away.

Although most rashes are not life-threatening, some rashes can signal something more serious. If you have a rash and notice any of the following symptoms, see a board-certified dermatologist or go to the emergency room immediately:

  1. The rash is all over your body. A rash that covers the body could indicate something concerning, such as an infection or allergic reaction.

  2. You have a fever with the rash. If this is the case, go to the emergency room. This could be caused by an allergic reaction or an infection. Examples of rashes caused by infection include scarlet fever, measles, mononucleosis, and shingles.

  3. The rash is sudden and spreads rapidly. This could be the result of an allergy. Allergies to medications are common, and some can be serious. If breathing becomes difficult, go to the emergency room or call 911.

  4. The rash begins to blister. If your rash is made up of blisters, or if the rash turns into open sores, it could be the result of an allergic reaction, a reaction to medication, or an internal cause. Seek medical attention if a blistering rash affects the skin around your eyes, multiple areas in your mouth, or your genitals.

  5. The rash is painful. Painful rashes should quickly be evaluated by a physician.

  6. The rash is infected. If you have an itchy rash and you scratch it, it may become infected. Signs of an infected rash are yellow or green fluid, swelling, crusting, pain, and warmth in the area of the rash, or a red streak coming from the rash.

Rashes can come in many forms and, depending on the cause, take days or even weeks to heal. Rather than treating the rash on your own, see a board-certified dermatologist for the proper diagnosis and treatment.

Related AAD resources

  • Atopic dermatitis: The rash that itches

  • Diaper rash: How to treat

  • Lichen planus

  • Lyme disease

  • Poison ivy, oak, and sumac: When does the rash appear?

Discolored Skin Patches

Many different conditions can cause discolored skin patches. Here is a list of 18 possible causes.

Warning: Graphic images ahead.

Radiation therapy

Share on PinterestImage by: LK Wagner, PhD; Vlietstra et a/Wikimedia

  • Only occurs in people being treated with radiation
  • Blistering, dryness, itching, and peeling of the skin
  • Hair loss at the site of treatment

Read full article on radiation therapy.

Sunburn

  • Superficial burn on the outermost layer of skin
  • Redness, pain, and swelling
  • Dry, peeling skin
  • More severe, blistering burns may occur after extended periods of sun exposure

Read full article on sunburns. Share on PinterestBy James Heilman, MD (Own work) , via Wikimedia Commons

  • Chronic skin disease that goes through cycles of fading and relapse
  • Relapses may be triggered by spicy foods, alcoholic beverages, sunlight, stress, and the intestinal bacteria Helicobacter pylori
  • There are four subtypes of rosacea encompassing a wide variety of symptoms
  • Common symptoms include facial flushing, raised, red bumps, facial redness, skin dryness, and skin sensitivity

Read full article on rosacea.

Burns

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • Burn severity is classified by both depth and size
  • First-degree burns: minor swelling and dry, red, tender skin that turns white when pressure is applied
  • Second-degree burns: very painful, clear, weeping blisters and skin that appears red or has variable, patchy coloration
  • Third-degree burns: white or dark brown/tan in color, with leathery appearance and low or no sensitivity to touch

Read full article on burns.

Tinea versicolor

  • Slow-growing white, tan, brown, pink, or red spots on the skin that may be lighter or darker than your normal skin color
  • Dry, flaky, and mildly itchy skin
  • Skin areas that don’t tan
  • Spots may disappear in cold weather and reappear in the spring and summer

Read full article on tinea versicolor.

  • Appears hours to days after contact with an allergen
  • Rash has visible borders and appears where your skin touched the irritating substance
  • Skin is itchy, red, scaly, or raw
  • Blisters that weep, ooze, or become crusty

Read full article on contact dermatitis.

Strawberry nevus

  • Red or purplish raised mark commonly located on the face, scalp, back, or chest
  • Appears at birth or in very young children
  • Gradually gets smaller or disappears as the child ages

Read full article on strawberry nevus.

  • Yellow or white scaly patches that flake off
  • Affected areas may be red, itchy, greasy, or oily
  • Hair loss may occur in the area with the rash

Read full article on eczema.

Bleeding into the skin

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

  • Occurs when a blood vessel bursts or leaks under the skin
  • Bleeding into the skin can appear as small dots, called petechiae, or in larger, flat patches, called purpura
  • The most common cause of bleeding under the skin is injury, but it may also be caused by more serious illness
  • Always see a doctor about bleeding into the skin that isn’t related to a known injury, or if bleeding is causing excessive swelling or pain

Read full article on bleeding into the skin.

Vitiligo

  • Loss of pigment in the skin due to autoimmune destruction of the cells that give skin its color
  • Focal pattern: loss of skin color in only a few small areas that may merge together
  • Segmental pattern: depigmentation on one side of the body
  • Premature graying of scalp and/or facial hair

Read full article on vitiligo.

Stasis ulcer

  • Symptom of advanced stasis dermatitis
  • Develop in areas of the body that have poor blood flow, most commonly in the feet and lower legs
  • Painful, irregularly shaped, shallow wounds with crusting and weeping
  • Poor healing

Read full article on stasis ulcer.

Basal cell carcinoma

  • Raised, firm, and pale areas that may resemble a scar
  • Dome-like, pink or red, shiny, and pearly areas that may have a sunk-in center, like a crater
  • Visible blood vessels on the growth
  • Easy bleeding or oozing wound that doesn’t seem to heal, or heals and then reappears

Read full article on basal cell carcinoma.

Actinic keratosis

  • Typically less than 2 cm, or about the size of a pencil eraser
  • Thick, scaly, or crusty skin patch
  • Appears on parts of the body that receive a lot of sun exposure (hands, arms, face, scalp, and neck)
  • Usually pink in color but can have a brown, tan, or gray base

Read full article on actinic keratosis.

Squamous cell carcinoma

  • Often occurs in areas exposed to UV radiation, such as the face, ears, and back of the hands
  • Scaly, reddish patch of skin progresses to a raised bump that continues to grow
  • Growth that bleeds easily and doesn’t heal, or heals and then reappears

Read full article on squamous cell carcinoma.

Melanoma

  • The most serious form of skin cancer, more common in fair-skinned people
  • Mole anywhere on the body that has irregularly shaped edges, asymmetrical shape, and multiple colors
  • Mole that has changed color or gotten bigger over time
  • Usually larger than a pencil eraser

Read full article on melanoma.

Melasma

  • Common skin condition that causes dark patches to appear on the face and, rarely, the neck, chest, or arms
  • More common in pregnant women (chloasma) and individuals with darker skin color and heavy sun exposure
  • No other symptoms beyond skin discoloration
  • May go away on its own within a year or may become permanent

Read full article on melasma.

Mongolian blue spots

  • Harmless skin condition seen at birth (birthmark)
  • Most common in Asian neonates
  • Large, flat, gray or blue patches with irregular edges seen on the back and buttock
  • Usually fade away by adolescence

Read full article on mongolian blue spots.

Staphylococcal Scalded Skin Syndrome

What is staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome in children?

Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome (SSSS) is a serious skin infection. The infection causes peeling skin over large parts of the body. It looks like the skin has been scalded or burned by hot liquid. It’s more common in the summer and fall.

What causes SSSS in a child?

It’s usually caused by an infection with a type of Staphylococcal aureas bacteria. The bacteria release poison (toxins) that cause the skin to blister and peel.

Which children are at risk for SSSS?

It can occur at any age, but children under 5 years of age are at highest risk. Other risk factors include:

  • Weak immune system
  • Long-term (chronic) kidney disease or kidney failure

What are the symptoms of SSSS in a child?

Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. They can include:

  • Fussiness (irritability)
  • Tiredness
  • Fever
  • Redness of the skin
  • Fluid-filled blisters that break easily and leave an area of moist skin that soon becomes tender and painful
  • Large sheets of the top layer of skin may peel away

The symptoms of staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is SSSS diagnosed in a child?

The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history. He or she will give your child a physical exam. Your child may also have tests, such as:

  • Skin biopsy. A tiny sample of skin is taken and checked under a microscope. A frozen section can be done quickly to confirm the diagnosis.
  • Cultures. These are simple tests to check for bacteria. Cultures may be done of the blood, urine, nose and throat, and skin. In newborns, a culture of the belly button may also be done.

How is SSSS treated in a child?

Your child’s healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment plan for your child based on:

  • Your child’s age, overall health, and medical history
  • How severe your child’s condition is
  • How well your child handles certain medicines, treatments, or therapies
  • If your child’s condition is expected to get worse
  • The opinion of the healthcare providers involved in your child’s care
  • Your opinion and preference

Your child will likely need to be treated in the hospital. He or she may be in the burn unit of the hospital. This is because the treatment is similar to treating a child with burns. Or your child may be treated in the intensive care unit (ICU). Treatment may include:

  • Antibiotic medicine given by IV (intravenous) line into the vein
  • IV fluids to prevent dehydration
  • Feedings through a tube from the mouth into the stomach (nasogastric feeding), if needed
  • Use of skin creams or ointments and bandages
  • Pain medicines

What are the possible complications of SSSS in a child?

Children who are treated right away usually recover with no scarring or other problems. But in some cases complications may include:

  • Loss of fluid causing dehydration and shock like a burn patient
  • Infection that gets worse
  • Scarring
  • Death

When should I call my child’s healthcare provider?

Call the healthcare provider right away if your child has red, blistering skin. If the healthcare provider is not available, go to the emergency room.

Key points about staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome in children

  • Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome is usually from a bacterial infection.
  • In children, the disease usually begins with fussiness (irritability), tiredness (malaise), and a fever. This is followed by redness of the skin.
  • The disease can be life-threatening and needs treatment.
  • Treatment usually requires a hospital stay, often in the burn or intensive care unit of the hospital.
  • Treatment includes antibiotic medicine, replacing fluids, and skin care.
  • Children who get prompt treatment usually recover with no scarring or complications.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:

  • Know the reason for the visit and what you want to happen.
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
  • Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed and how it will help your child. Also know what the side effects are.
  • Ask if your child’s condition can be treated in other ways.
  • Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
  • Know what to expect if your child does not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
  • If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.

Erythema Multiforme

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What Is Erythema Multiforme?

Erythema multiforme is an allergic reaction. It causes a rash of spots with dark centers and pale red rings that look like a target or “bulls-eye.” Some spots can have a small blister or scab in the middle.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Erythema Multiforme?

Erythema multiforme (air-uh-THEE-muh mul-teh-FOR-mee) starts with pink or red blotches. They grow over a few days into round spots that look like targets with red, pink, and pale rings.

Often, the rash starts on the arms, hands, legs, and feet, then appears on the face, neck, diaper area, and body. Some kids get a few spots in the mouth. If there are many spots on the lips or mouth, it is called erythema multiforme major.

The rash is most often on both sides of the body. It might not bother kids, but it can itch or burn.

As the rash goes away, the skin where the spots were can look dark for a few months, but won’t leave a scar.

The rash might be the only sign, but sometimes kids with erythema multiforme also:

  • feel tired
  • have a low fever
  • have sore muscles and joints
  • have puffy hands or feet

What Causes Erythema Multiforme?

Most cases of erythema multiforme happen because the body has an allergic reaction to an infection or a medicine. The most common trigger is the germ that causes cold sores. In kids, a germ that causes lung infections also can trigger erythema multiforme.

Less often a medicine causes it. Some medicines that can cause a reaction are:

  • penicillin or sulfa-based antibiotics
  • some anti-seizure medicines
  • anesthesia
  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen

Is Erythema Multiforme Contagious?

No, the rash can’t spread from person to person. If an infection causes it, that infection can spread. But someone else who gets the infection may not get the rash too.

How Is Erythema Multiforme Diagnosed?

Doctors know it’s erythema multiforme by looking at it. To help figure out what caused it, the doctor will ask about any recent sickness the child had and any medicines he or she takes. Sometimes, the cause isn’t known.

How Is Erythema Multiforme Treated?

Erythema multiforme goes away on its own. If the cause is an infection, the doctor may treat that. If a medicine was the cause, the doctor will stop it and use a new one if a medicine is still needed.

If your child has erythema multiforme caused by the cold sore germ, the rash might come back when cold sores come back. If it keeps coming back, the doctor may give a medicine to fight the cold sore germ to keep the rash away.

Doctors might treat some severe cases with steroid medicines.

How Can Parents Help?

To help make kids feel better, doctors may suggest:

  • putting cool packs on the rash
  • taking a cool bath or shower
  • using acetaminophen (like Tylenol or a store brand) for pain or fever
  • using antihistamines (like Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec, or store brands)
  • putting creams on the skin to help with itchiness

These treatments won’t make the rash go away faster, but will make a child feel better until the rash is gone.

When Should I Call the Doctor?

Call the doctor if you think your child has erythema multiforme. Other rashes can look similar.

If your child is diagnosed with erythema multiforme, call the doctor if your child has any of these problems:

  • a lot of spots in the mouth
  • trouble drinking liquids
  • pain that doesn’t get better with pain medicine
  • spots around the eyes or the white part of the eyes look red
  • peeling skin

What Else Should I Know?

The erythema multiforme rash often goes away in 1 to 2 weeks, but can last as long as 4 weeks. It doesn’t cause a scar, but in some kids might leave darker spots on the skin for a few months.

It can be hard to wait until the rash goes away. You can help your child by treating the itching and pain and calling the doctor if you think your child is getting worse.

Reviewed by: Melanie L. Pitone, MD Date reviewed: November 2019

What’s Causing Your Skin Rash?

A skin rash is an area of skin that has become swollen, inflamed, or irritated. Skin rashes can include skin bumps that look like pimples or sores; blotchy, scaly or red skin; and itchy or burning skin. Allergens, heat, and certain medical conditions (some more serious than others) can all cause skin reactions like these. Some skin rashes occur right away, while others take some time to develop. Some tend to occur on the face while others flare up on the arms, legs, or torso. Location, appearance, and color of a skin rash are all factors in determining the right diagnosis and the right treatment.

It’s important to note that the word “rash can mean a whole lot of things to a whole lot of different people,” says Whitney High, MD, the director of dermatopathology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver, and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Dermatology. “To a dermatologist, rash is an extremely broad term, ranging from connective tissue disease like lupus, to infections, to something very obvious” — for example, after using a new laundry detergent, you notice redness and irritation in your underarms; when you switch back to your old detergent, it goes away.

Some rashes may be relatively harmless and easy enough to take care of at home while others can be more problematic. So how do you know when to see your doctor for medical treatment? Isabela Jones, MD, a dermatologist at McLean Dermatology and Skincare Center in McLean, Virginia, recommends seeking medical attention if any of the following symptoms are also present:

  • Fever, which “can indicate the presence of an infection, serious reaction to a medication, or rheumatologic disease,” says Dr. Jones.
  • Blisters or open sores on the skin, mouth, or genitalia. “Some benign rashes, like poison ivy, can cause small blisters in the skin. However, many times blisters and open sores can indicate a serious or life-threatening condition that requires immediate intervention,” she notes.
  • A rash that is painful and that is all over the body or spreading rapidly.
  • A rash that has not improved with home care.

Dr. High notes that if you’re feeling well and the condition is not interfering with your quality of life, it’s fine to try reasonable home remedies, such as hydrocortisone cream. But if the irritation persists, however innocuous it may seem, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor. “Usually, if a rash has not improved within two weeks of starting home care, seeking medical care would be recommended,” says Jones. “Contacting a dermatologist or primary care provider is never a bad idea if someone is uncertain about how to treat the rash, or is generally worried about the appearance of the rash,” says Jones.

If you’re suffering from a skin rash, check out the following images to see if it could be one of these. (Warning: A few of these rashes might be a little tough to look at.)

Cheek Rash

What is a cheek rash?

A cheek rash is an inflammatory reaction of the skin of the cheeks characterized by redness, bumps or swelling on the cheeks. Cheek rashes can be caused by a wide variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions. Cheek rashes can affect one or both cheeks at a time. They can cover a small to large area of the cheek, and they can occur in all age groups and populations.

Cheek rashes can vary greatly in appearance and severity depending on the underlying cause. Cheek rashes may or may not be itchy and can be red, white, purple or silver in color. The texture of a cheek rash can be flat, raised, bumpy, or scaly and include flaking or peeling skin cells. Cheek rashes can appear as dots or spots or be solid and continuous.

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Common causes of cheek rashes include rosacea, acne, eczema, dermatitis, mild allergic reactions, and other inflammatory disorders. Many causes of cheek rashes do not result in any permanent harm and can be treated successfully by following the treatment plan outlined by your healthcare provider.

In some cases, a cheek rash can also be due to a serious disease or condition, such as bacterial meningitis, systemic lupus erythematosus, or a serious, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have symptoms of bacterial meningitis, such as a cheek or facial rash of purple spots (petechiae) with a fever and stiff neck; symptoms of anaphylaxis, such as a cheek rash combined with severe shortness of breath, wheezing, hives, throat tightness, or swelling of the face, lips or tongue; or symptoms of complications of lupus, such as severe trouble breathing, sudden swelling of the legs, severely decreased or no urine output, chest pain, or a sudden change in alertness or consciousness.

What other symptoms might occur with a cheek rash?

A cheek rash can occur by itself or with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Other symptoms can affect the digestive tract, respiratory system, nervous system, reproductive system, cardiovascular system, or immune system. For example, you may have a fever and other flu-like symptoms if the cheek rash is due to infection or inflammation.

Skin symptoms that may occur with a cheek rash

A cheek rash may occur with other symptoms affecting the skin including:

  • Bleeding from broken skin

  • Blistering skin

  • Burning skin

  • Cracked, dry or itching skin

  • Lesions or sores in the mouth or nose

  • Rashes elsewhere on the body

  • Redness, irritation or inflammation of the skin

  • Scaling, flaking or peeling skin

  • Swelling or puffiness around the rash

  • Visible facial blood vessels

Other symptoms that may occur with a facial rash

In some cases, a facial rash may occur with symptoms related to other body systems. Symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain

  • Difficulty concentrating and mild trouble with memory

  • Fever or other flu-like symptoms (fatigue, sore throat, headache, cough, aches and pains)

  • Hair loss

  • Inflammation of the lungs and chest pain when breathing deeply

  • Muscle and joint pain and swollen joints

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Nerve pain

  • Sensitivity to sunlight

  • Sneezing and runny nose

  • Stress, anxiety or depression

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

In some cases, a cheek rash may occur with other symptoms that might indicate a serious or life-threatening condition, such as anaphylaxis, bacterial meningitis, or complications of lupus that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have these serious symptoms:

  • Change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness

  • Chest pain, tightness or pressure

  • Decreased or no urine output

  • Hives on the neck or face

  • Rapid heart rate (tachycardia) or palpitations

  • Respiratory or breathing problems, such as severe shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, labored breathing, wheezing, not breathing, or choking

  • Severe headache

  • Stiff neck

  • Sudden swelling of the face, lips or tongue

  • Throat tightness

What causes a cheek rash?

Cheek rashes can be caused by a variety of diseases, disorders and conditions, including infection, inflammation, allergic reactions, and autoimmune processes. A sudden or acute rash on the cheek may be due to an allergic reaction or sensitivity to a particular substance, such as a facial moisturizer, food, or medication.

A chronic or long-term facial rash may be caused by acne or an inflammatory disorder, such as rosacea. Rosacea is characterized by facial redness and flushing, particularly on the cheeks, and raised bumps that can resemble acne. The cause of rosacea is not known.

A cheek rash in an infant may be caused by trapped dead skin cells (milia) or baby acne, although other causes are possible. A cheek rash in children can be a sign of many different conditions, including eczema, allergies, bacterial infection (erysipelas) and viral infections (parvovirus B19, measles).

In all age groups, more serious causes include a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis (tightening and closing of the airways), bacterial meningitis, systemic lupus erythematosus or lupus, and cellulitis. Cellulitis is an invasive infection of the skin and nearby tissues that can be caused by streptococcal or staphylococcal bacteria.

Infectious causes of cheek rashes

A cheek rash may be caused by an infection including:

  • Bacterial infection, such as those caused by streptococcal or staphylococcal bacteria, including cellulitis (invasive infection of the skin and nearby tissues called erysipelas)
  • Chickenpox
  • Erysipelas (bacterial skin infection)
  • Fifth disease (mild viral infection in children that can also cause harm to unborn babies)
  • Herpes virus infection
  • Impetigo (bacterial skin infection)
  • Measles
  • Ringworm (fungal infection)
  • Shingles

Allergic causes of cheek rashes

A cheek rash may be caused by an allergic reaction including:

  • Allergic contact dermatitis such as an allergy to a facial cream
  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema including chronic eczema)
  • Drug reaction
  • Food allergy
  • Irritant contact dermatitis such as a sensitivity to a perfume

Autoimmune and inflammatory causes of cheek rashes

A cheek rash may be caused by an autoimmune or inflammatory disorder including:

  • Acne
  • Baby acne (skin inflammation triggered by maternal hormones)
  • Dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis, which can affect your face and neck as well as your scalp)
  • Rosacea (chronic inflammatory skin disorder)
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus or lupus (disorder in which the body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues). Lupus typically produces a butterfly shaped rash that spreads over the bridge of the nose and across the cheeks.

Other causes of cheek rashes

A cheek rash may also accompany the following conditions:

  • Anxiety or stress
  • Erythema toxicum (benign, noncancerous skin condition common in newborn babies)
  • Heat rash
  • Methamphetamine abuse
  • Milia (tiny white bumps of dead skin cells and other debris)

Life-threatening causes of cheek and facial rashes

In some cases, a cheek rash may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. Serious or life-threatening conditions include:

  • Allergic purpura (autoimmune bleeding disorder)
  • Anaphylaxis (life-threatening allergic reaction)
  • Erythema multiforme (type of allergic reaction)
  • Meningitis (infection or inflammation of the sac around the brain and spinal cord)
  • Toxic epidermal necrolysis (skin and mucosal loss due to a severe medication reaction)

Questions for diagnosing the cause of a cheek rash

To diagnose the underlying cause of a cheek rash, your doctor or licensed healthcare provider will ask you several questions about your symptoms. Providing complete answers to these questions will help your provider in diagnosing the cause of your cheek rash:

  • When did the rash appear?
  • Do you have a rash on other areas of your body?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • Have you been in recent contact with any unusual substances or environments, such as exposure to chemicals or unusual plants, taking new medications or supplements, or traveling to a foreign country?
  • Have you had the rash before?
  • What is your medical and dental history? Do you have any diseases or conditions?
  • What medications and over-the-counter drugs, supplements, or herbal products are you taking?

What are the potential complications of a cheek rash?

In some cases, a cheek rash itself can lead to complications, especially if there is severe itching and scratching that leads to breakdown of the skin. Scratching can introduce bacteria or fungi into the layers of skin, resulting in infection.

Serious complications of underlying causes of a cheek rash, such as lupus or meningitis, can also occur. You can best reduce the risk of complications of a cheek rash and its underlying causes by following the treatment plan you and your healthcare provider develop specifically for you.

Complications of cheek rashes include:

  • Bacterial or fungal infection of the skin
  • Cellulitis
  • Open sores and lesions
  • Permanent change in skin texture
  • Permanent skin discoloration
  • Scarring

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