A rash is any area of irritated or swollen skin on your body. Rashes are often itchy and painful and can appear differently on different skin tones. While they are often described as red, on darker skin tones, they may be purple, gray, or white.

Rashes have a variety of causes, from bites to chickenpox to serious conditions like drug allergies. Seek medical attention if home remedies do not help or if you also have symptoms such as fever or dizziness.

There are many different causes of rashes. Here’s a list of 22 potential causes with pictures.


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Flea bites of the lower leg causing red bumps and scabbing. Angela Hampton Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo
  • usually located in clusters on the lower legs and feet
  • itchy, small red bumps on lighter skin tones and more plum-like in color on darker skin tones
  • symptoms begin immediately after being bitten

Read the full article on fleabites.

Fifth disease

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Fifth disease is a viral illness caused by parvovirus, which can cause a ‘slapped cheek’ rash. Kardelen Yang?n Via Wikipedia
  • symptoms include headache, fatigue, low fever, sore throat, runny nose, diarrhea, and nausea
  • children are more likely than adults to experience a rash
  • round, bright red rash on the cheeks, but it may be less noticeable on darker skin tones
  • usually after the face rash, a lacy-patterned rash may appear on the arms, legs, and upper body and might be more visible after a hot shower or bath

Read the full article on fifth disease.


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Weinkle, A. P., Doktor, V., & Emer, J. (2015). Update on the management of rosacea. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 8, 159–177. https://doi.org/10.2147/CCID.S58940
  • chronic (long-term) 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
  • the four subtypes of rosacea encompass a wide variety of symptoms
  • common symptoms include facial flushing, raised red bumps, facial redness, skin dryness, and skin sensitivity
  • on darker skin tones, brown or yellowish-brown bumps may appear, and the rash can have a dusky coloration

Read the full article on rosacea.


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This image also depicts impetigo on dark skin. Photography courtesy of Grook Da Oger/Wikimedia
  • most common in children 2-5 years old, but can happen at any age
  • 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
  • can also appear brown, purple, or gray on darker skin tones

Read the full article on impetigo.


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Ringworm on the face of a child. BSIP SA / Alamy Stock Photo
  • itchy, circular scaly patches with raised borders
  • on lighter skin tones, the patches can appear pink or red
  • on darker skin tones, the patches can appear gray or brown
  • skin in the middle of the ring appears clearer, and the edges of the ring may spread outward

Read the full article on ringworm.

Contact dermatitis

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Contact dermatitis of the arm. vvoe/Shutterstock
  • appears hours to days after contact with an allergen
  • has visible borders and typically appears where your skin touched the irritating substance
  • on lighter skin tones, it can appear red
  • on darker skin tones, it may be less noticeable
  • may have blisters that weep, ooze, or become crusty
  • typically itchy, scaly, or raw

Read the full article on contact dermatitis.

Allergic eczema

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Dmitriy SIMAKOV/Getty Images
  • may resemble a burn
  • often found on hands and forearms
  • skin is itchy, scaly, or raw
  • may have blisters that weep, ooze, or become crusty
  • on lighter skin tones, it can appear red
  • on darker skin tones, it can cause darker brown, purple, or gray patches

Read the full article on allergic eczema.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease

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Hand-foot-and-mouth disease MidgleyDJ at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • usually affects children under age 5
  • painful, red blisters in the mouth and on the tongue and gums
  • flat or raised red spots located on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet
  • on darker skin tones, it can be skin-colored or grayish-brown
  • spots may also appear on the buttocks or genital area

Read the full article on hand, foot, and mouth disease.

Diaper rash

  • located on areas that have contact with a diaper
  • skin looks red, wet, and slightly lighter or darker than typical skin color
  • may be warm to the touch

Read the full article on diaper rash.


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  • dry, rough, flaky, inflamed, and irritated skin
  • affected areas may be red and itchy
  • hair loss may occur in the area with the rash
  • on darker skin tones, it can appear as darker brown or gray patches

Read the full article on eczema.


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Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition that causes dry, scaly plaques on the skin. It is immune system mediated, and genetics likely also play a role. Vitek2808/Shutterstock
  • scaly, silvery, sharply defined skin patches
  • on darker skin tones, it may look darker than the surrounding skin or it might appear purple
  • commonly located on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back
  • may be itchy or asymptomatic

Read the full article on psoriasis.


child with chickenpox rashShare on Pinterest
Child with chickenpox Grook da oger, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • clusters of itchy, red, fluid-filled blisters in various stages of healing all over the body
  • on darker skin tones, it can be red, the same as the natural skin tone, or a little darker; scabs can appear gray
  • rash is accompanied by fever, body aches, sore throat, and loss of appetite
  • remains contagious until all blisters have crusted over

Read the full article on chickenpox.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)

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butterfly rash.SLE systemic lupus erythematosus
  • an autoimmune disease that displays a wide variety of symptoms and affects many 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
  • can appear bright red on lighter skin tones
  • on darker skin tones, it may appear red, brown, or darker than the original skin color
  • rashes may appear or get worse with sun exposure

Read the full article on systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).


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  • painful rash that may burn, tingle, or itch, even if there are no blisters present
  • clusters of fluid-filled blisters that break easily and weep fluid
  • rash emerges in a band-like pattern that appears most commonly on the torso, but may occur on other parts of the body, including the face
  • may be accompanied by low fever, chills, headache, or fatigue

Read the full article on shingles.


Cellulitis rash on legShare on Pinterest
Cellulitis of the lower legs. TisforThan/Shutterstock

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

  • caused by bacteria or fungi entering through a crack or cut in the skin
  • tends to be red or pink
  • it may appear less obvious on darker skin tones and can also look brown, gray, or purple
  • painful, swollen skin with or without oozing that spreads quickly
  • hot and tender to the touch
  • might be a sign of serious infection requiring medical attention

Read the full article on cellulitis.

Drug allergy

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

  • mild to severe itchy, red rash may occur days to weeks after taking a drug
  • severe drug allergies can be life threatening, and symptoms include rash, blisters, hives, racing heart, swelling, itching, and difficulty breathing
  • other symptoms include fever, stomach upset, and tiny purple or red dots on the skin

Read the full article on drug allergies.


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Scabies is an itchy skin infestation with mites. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
  • symptoms may take 2-5 weeks to appear
  • extremely itchy rash with small bumps that may be scaly
  • raised, white, or flesh-toned lines

Read the full article on scabies.


measles rash on torso of childShare on Pinterest
Measles on the torso of a child phichet chaiyabin/Shutterstock
  • symptoms include fever, sore throat, red watery eyes, loss of appetite, cough, and runny nose
  • depending on skin tone, the rash may be red, skin-colored, or darker than the natural skin color
  • the rash spreads from the face down the body 3 to 5 days after first symptoms appear
  • tiny white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background can appear inside the mouth

Read the full article on measles.

Tick bite

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Aitor Diago/Getty Images
  • painless and causes only minor signs and symptoms, such as a change in skin color, swelling, or a sore on the skin
  • rash, burning sensation, or blisters
  • difficulty breathing, which requires immediate medical attention
  • the tick often remains attached to the skin for a long time
  • bites rarely appear in groups
  • may look like a target, circular, expanding — 70-80% of people with Lyme disease will have this rash

Read the full article on tick bites.

Seborrheic eczema

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Zay Nyi Nyi/Shutterstock
  • yellow or white scaly patches that flake off
  • affected areas may be red — though they may appear faint on darker skin tones —, itchy, greasy, yellowish or white patches
  • hair loss may occur in the rash area

Read the full article on seborrheic eczema.

Scarlet fever

child with scarlet fever rashShare on Pinterest
Child with scarlet fever rash and rosy cheeks badobadop, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
  • occurs at the same time as or right after a strep throat infection
  • rash is made up of tiny bumps that make it feel like “sandpaper”
  • bright red tongue
  • people with lighter skin tones can have a bright red rash all over the body (but not on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet)
  • on people with darker skin tones, it may be more difficult to see the rash, but their skin will have a sandpaper-like texture

Read the full article on scarlet fever.

Kawasaki disease

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

  • usually affects children under age 5
  • red cracked lips, swollen tongue (strawberry tongue), high fever, swollen red palms and soles of the feet, swollen lymph nodes, bloodshot eyes
  • can be harder to recognize on darker skin tones
  • may cause severe heart problems

Read the full article on Kawasaki disease.

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is one of the most common causes of rashes. This type of rash occurs when the skin comes into direct contact with a foreign substance that causes an adverse reaction, leading to a rash. The resulting rash may be itchy, red, or inflamed.

Possible causes of contact dermatitis include:


Taking medications may also cause rashes. They can form as a result of:

Other causes

Other possible causes of rashes include the following:

  • A rash can sometimes develop in the area of a bug bite, such as a fleabite. Tick bites are of particular concern because they can transmit disease.
  • Atopic dermatitis, the most common form of eczema, is a rash that may be more common in people with asthma or allergies. The rash is often reddish, though it can be skin-colored or darker on people with darker skin tones. It can be itchy with a scaly texture.
  • Psoriasis is a common skin condition that can cause a scaly, itchy, red, or purplish rash to form along the scalp, elbows, and joints.
  • Seborrheic eczema is a type of eczema that most often affects the scalp and causes redness, scaly patches, and dandruff. It can also occur on the ears, brows, or nose. When babies have it, it’s known as cradle cap.
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease that can trigger a rash on the cheeks and nose. This rash is known as a “butterfly,” or malar, rash.
  • Rosacea is a chronic skin condition of unknown cause. There are several types of rosacea, but all are characterized by redness and rash on the face.
  • Ringworm is a fungal infection that causes a distinctive ring-shaped rash. The same fungus that causes ringworm on the body and the scalp also causes jock itch and athlete’s foot.
  • Diaper rash is a common skin irritation in infants and toddlers. It can be associated with prolonged exposure to a wet diaper.
  • Scabies is an infestation by tiny mites that live on and burrow into your skin. It causes a bumpy, itchy rash.
  • Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the skin. It usually appears as a red, swollen area that is painful and tender to the touch. If left untreated, the infection causing the cellulitis can spread and become life threatening.

Causes of rashes in children

Children are particularly prone to rashes that develop as a result of illnesses:

  • Chickenpox is caused by a virus, and the rash is characterized by small itchy bumps and blisters that form all over the body.
  • Measles is a viral respiratory infection that causes a widespread rash consisting of itchy, red bumps.
  • Scarlet fever is an infection due to group A Streptococcus bacteria that produces a toxin, causing a bright red or skin-tone-colored, sandpaper-like rash.
  • Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a viral infection that can cause red lesions on the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet.
  • Fifth disease is a viral infection that causes a red, flat rash on the torso, arms, and legs.
  • Kawasaki disease is a rare but serious illness that triggers a rash and fever in the early stages and can lead to heart complications.
  • Impetigo is a contagious bacterial infection that causes an itchy, crusty rash and yellow, fluid-filled sores on the affected area, such as the face, neck, or hands.

You can treat most contact rashes, but it depends on the cause. Follow these guidelines to help ease discomfort and speed up the healing process:

  • Use mild, gentle cleansers instead of scented bar soaps.
  • Use warm water instead of hot water for washing your skin and hair.
  • Pat the rash dry instead of rubbing it.
  • Let the rash breathe. If it’s possible, avoid covering it with clothing.
  • Stop using new cosmetics or lotions that may have triggered the rash.
  • Apply unscented moisturizing lotion to areas affected by eczema.
  • Avoid scratching the rash because doing so can make it worse and could lead to infection.
  • Apply an over-the-counter (OTC) hydrocortisone cream to the affected area if the rash is very itchy and causing discomfort. Calamine lotion can also help relieve rashes from chickenpox, poison ivy, or poison oak.
  • Take an oatmeal bath. This can soothe the itchiness associated with rashes from eczema or psoriasis. Here’s how to make an oatmeal bath.
  • Wash your hair and scalp regularly with dandruff shampoo if you have dandruff along with a rash. Medicated dandruff shampoo is commonly available at drugstores, but your doctor can prescribe stronger types if you need them.

Over-the-counter (OTC) medications

Talk with a healthcare professional, who may recommend OTC medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to treat mild pain associated with the rash.

Avoid taking these medications for an extended period because they can have side effects. Ask a healthcare professional how long it’s safe for you to take them. You may not be able to take them if you have liver or kidney disease or a history of stomach ulcers.

Call a healthcare professional if the rash doesn’t go away with home remedies. You should also contact them if you’re experiencing other symptoms in addition to your rash and you suspect you have an illness.

If you don’t already have a physician, you can use the Healthline FindCare tool to find a professional near you.

Go to the hospital immediately if you experience a rash along with any of the following symptoms:

  • increasing pain or discoloration in the rash area
  • tightness or itchiness in the throat
  • difficulty breathing
  • swelling of the face or limbs
  • fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • severe head or neck pain
  • repeated vomiting or diarrhea

Contact a healthcare professional if you have a rash as well as other systemic symptoms, including:

  • joint pain
  • a sore throat
  • red streaks or tender areas near the rash
  • a recent tick bite or animal bite

Your healthcare professional will perform a physical exam and inspect your rash. Expect to answer questions about your:

  • rash
  • medical history
  • diet
  • recent use of products or medications
  • hygiene

Your healthcare professional may also:

  • take your temperature
  • order tests, such as an allergy test or complete blood count
  • perform a skin biopsy, which involves taking a small sample of skin tissue for analysis
  • refer you to a specialist, such as a dermatologist, for further evaluation

Your healthcare professional may also prescribe medication or medicated lotion to relieve your rash. Most people can treat their rashes effectively with medical treatments and home care.

Follow these tips if you have a rash:

  • Use home remedies to soothe mild contact rashes.
  • Identify potential triggers for the rash and avoid them as much as possible.
  • Call a healthcare professional if the rash doesn’t go away with home treatments. You should also contact them if you’re experiencing other symptoms in addition to your rash and you suspect you have an illness.
  • Carefully follow any treatments your doctor prescribes. Speak with a healthcare professional if your rash persists or worsens despite treatment.

How can I identify my rash?

It’s not so easy to identify a rash. Rashes can present as splotches, bumps, or blisters. They can be itchy, scaly, and red, and some may look different on different skin tones. They may develop in one specific area of the skin or all over the body. They may disappear and reappear randomly, or stay indefinitely. A board-certified dermatologist can help you identify your rash and recommend the right treatment.

What are the 5 types of rashes?

There are many types of rashes, many of which have sub-types. Broadly speaking, rashes can be split into those caused by infection, allergic reactions, environmental irritation, irritation from plants, and those caused by autoimmune conditions.

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

There are several home remedies you can try that might help you relieve discomfort from a rash. That said, the treatment and timing of healing depends on the cause. Consult with a dermatologist to determine what rash you have and what treatment you need.

Rashes are areas of irritated or swollen skin. These areas may become itchy, painful, or dry out.

Skin discoloration is a common rash symptom, which can present differently on different skin tones. Rashes may appear red or pink on lighter skin tones, while on darker skin tones they may be purple, gray, or white.

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