A rash is any area of irritated or swollen skin. Rashes may be itchy and painful and appear differently on different skin tones. In some cases, a rash may be a sign of a medical emergency.

Rashes have a variety of causes, from bug bites to chickenpox to severe conditions like cellulitis. Medical attention is highly advised if home remedies do not help after a few days or if you have symptoms such as fever, severe pain, or dizziness.

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


Image of how flea bites lookShare on Pinterest
Flea bites of the lower leg causing red bumps and scabbing. (Angela Hampton Picture Library / Alamy Stock Photo)

Fleabite rashes are:

  • 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
  • quick to develop – typically immediately after being bitten

Read more on fleabites.

Fifth disease

Young child with red cheeks caused by fifth diseaseShare on Pinterest
Fifth disease is a viral illness caused by parvovirus, which can cause a ‘slapped cheek’ rash. (Kardelen Yangn Via Wikipedia)

Fifth disease may lead to:

  • symptoms that include headache, fatigue, low fever, sore throat, runny nose, diarrhea, and nausea
  • round, bright red rashes on the cheeks, but may be less noticeable on darker skin tones
  • a lacy-patterned rash on the arms, legs, and upper body and might be more visible after a hot shower or bath. This usually happens after the face rash has developed.

Children are more likely than adults to experience this rash.

Read more on fifth disease.


Adult female with rosacea symptoms on the faceShare on Pinterest
Female with rosacea on the face. (Image from Weinkle AP, et al. (2015). Update on the management of rosacea. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4396587/)

Rosacea is a chronic (long-term) skin disease that goes through cycles of fading and relapse. It typically:

  • recurs due to triggers like spicy foods, alcoholic beverages, sunlight, stress, and the intestinal bacteria Helicobacter pylori
  • manifests with common symptoms like facial flushing, raised red bumps, facial redness, skin dryness, and skin sensitivity
  • appears as brown or yellowish-brown bumps on darker skin or have a dusky coloration

Read more on rosacea.


Child with dark skin with signs of impetigo on the faceShare on Pinterest
This image also depicts impetigo on dark skin. (Grook Da Oger/Wikimedia)

Impetigo is most common in children ages 2–5 years, but can happen at any age. It is:

  • often located in the area around the mouth, chin, and nose
  • an irritating rash with fluid-filled blisters that pop easily and form a honey-colored crust
  • brown, purple, or gray in appearance on darker skin tones

Read more on impetigo.


Child with dark skin with ringworm on his faceShare on Pinterest
Ringworm on the face of a child. (BSIP SA / Alamy Stock Photo)

Ringworm may appear as:

  • itchy, circular scaly patches with raised borders
  • patches of pink or red skin, on light skin tones
  • patches of gray or brown skin, on darker skin tones
  • a raised circle with skin in the middle that appears clearer, and the edges of the ring spreading outward

Read more on ringworm.

Contact dermatitis

Male with contact dermatitis skin rash on the armShare on Pinterest
Contact dermatitis of the arm. (vvoe/Shutterstock)

Contact dermatitis appears hours to days after contact with an allergen or irritant. It usually shows as a rash that:

  • has visible borders that develop in the same spot your skin came in contact with the irritating substance
  • appears red, on light skin tones
  • may not be noticeable, on darker skin tones
  • may have blisters that weep, ooze, or become crusty
  • typically itchy, scaly, or raw

Read more on contact dermatitis.

Allergic eczema

Female with a skin rash on the neck caused by allergic eczemaShare on Pinterest
Female neck with signs of an allergic reaction. (Dmitriy SIMAKOV/Getty Images)

Allergic eczema may resemble a burn. It is:

  • often found on hands and forearms
  • characterized by skin that’s itchy, scaly, or raw
  • typically accompanied by blisters that weep, ooze, or become crusty
  • reddish, on lighter skin tones
  • brown, purple, or gray, on darker skin tones

Read more on allergic eczema.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease

Baby with signs of hand, foot, and mouth diseaseShare on Pinterest
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease. (MidgleyDJ at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The hand, foot, and mouth disease symptoms usually affect children under age 5 years. It typically manifests as:

  • 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
  • skin-colored or grayish-brown bumps, on darker skin tones
  • spots on the buttocks or genital area

Read more on hand, foot, and mouth disease.

Diaper rash

Baby with a diaper rashShare on Pinterest
Diaper rashes may develop in the genital area as well as in the legs. (Stock image)

The rash is usually located on and around areas that have direct contact with a diaper. In this rash:

  • the skin looks red, wet, and slightly lighter or darker than the skin color
  • the affected area may be warm to the touch

Read more on diaper rash.


Adult with signs of eczema around the eyesShare on Pinterest
Eczema may develop anywhere in the body, including the face. (Benislav/Shuttertstock_)

Eczema causes dry, rough, flaky, inflamed, and irritated skin. With eczema rashes:

  • affected areas may appear red and itchy
  • hair loss may occur on the rash site
  • darker brown or gray patches may appear on darker skin tones

Read more on eczema.


Hand with signs of psoriasisShare on Pinterest
Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition that causes dry, scaly plaques on the skin. (Vitek2808/Shutterstock)

Psoriasis appears as scaly, silvery, sharply defined skin patches. With psoriasis:

  • the rash may look silvery on light skin or like darker patches on dark skin
  • a rash may appear on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back
  • you may feel itchy
  • the rash may not cause any other symptoms

Read more on psoriasis.


Child with chickenpox rash on the faceShare on Pinterest
Child with chickenpox. (Grook da oger, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Chickenpox manifests as clusters of itchy, red, fluid-filled blisters in various stages of healing all over the body. The rash may:

  • appear red, skin toned, or darker on darker skin tones
  • scab over progressively with scabs that appear gray in dark skin tones
  • be accompanied by fever, body aches, sore throat, and loss of appetite
  • remain contagious to other people until all blisters have dried

Read more on chickenpox.

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)

Female with a butterfly rash on the face caused by lupusShare on Pinterest
Butterfly rash from systemic lupus erythematosus.

Systemic lupus erythematosus is an autoimmune disease that displays a wide variety of symptoms and affects many body systems and organs. The condition leads to:

  • a wide array of skin and mucous membrane symptoms that range from rashes to ulcers
  • a classic butterfly-shaped face rash that crosses from cheek to cheek over the nose
  • a bright red appearance on lighter skin tones
  • a red, brown, or darker appearance on darker skin tones
  • rashes that get worse with sun exposure

Read more on systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).


Shingles rashShare on Pinterest
Shingles typically leads to a blistering rash. (chatuphot/Shutterstock)

A viral infection, shingles causes a painful rash that may burn, tingle, or itch, even if there no blisters are present at first. Shingles may involve:

  • clusters of fluid-filled blisters that break easily and weep fluid
  • a rash that emerges in a band-like pattern, most commonly on the torso, but may occur on other parts of the body, including the face
  • rash is highly contagious and needs to be covered as much as possible
  • a medical emergency when it appears around the eyes and nose
  • low fever, chills, headache, or fatigue

It is important to take all the precautions so other people don’t come in direct contact with the shingles rash. This is particularly essential with young children, pregnant people, and others with weak immune systems.

Read more on shingles.


Cellulitis rash on legShare on Pinterest
Cellulitis often develops in the lower legs. (TisforThan/Shutterstock)

Cellulitis is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care is required.

The condition is caused by bacteria or fungi entering through a crack or cut in the skin. The rash may:

  • appear red or pink in light skin colors
  • appear less obvious on darker skin tones and can also look brown, gray, or purple
  • involve painful, swollen skin with or without oozing that spreads quickly
  • feel hot and tender to the touch
  • be a sign of serious infection requiring prompt medical attention

Read more on cellulitis.


Hand with a scabies rashShare on Pinterest
Scabies may be extremely itchy. (Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Scabies is an itchy skin infestation with mites. It may involve:

  • symptoms that take 2–5 weeks to appear
  • an extremely itchy rash with small bumps that may be scaly
  • raised, white, or flesh-toned lines

Read more on scabies.


Measles rash on torso of childShare on Pinterest
Measles usually covers the body. (phichet chaiyabin/Shutterstock)

Measles is on the rise in the United States. It typically manifests as:

  • systemic symptoms like fever, sore throat, red watery eyes, loss of appetite, cough, and runny nose
  • a rash that appears red, skin-colored, or darker than the natural skin color
  • a rash that spreads from the face down the body 3–5 days after the first symptoms appear
  • tiny white spots with bluish-white centers inside the mouth

Read more on measles.

Tick bite

A tick bite rashShare on Pinterest
A tick bite may lead to a burning sensation. (Aitor Diago/Getty Images)

Tick bites may be painless and cause only minor signs and symptoms, such as a change in skin color, swelling, or a sore on the skin. They may also lead to:

  • a rash with a burning sensation
  • blisters at the site
  • difficulty breathing, which requires immediate medical attention
  • having the tick attached to the skin for a long time
  • a rash that resembles a circular target that expands. About 70–80% of people with Lyme disease will have this rash

Read more on tick bites.

Seborrheic eczema

Male with seborrheic eczema on the scalpShare on Pinterest
Seborrheic eczema is oily or greasy in appearance and texture. (Zay Nyi Nyi/Shutterstock)

Seborrheic eczema is a type of eczema that leads to yellow or white scaly patches that flake off. You may notice:

  • red areas — though they may appear faint on darker skin tones
  • itchy, greasy, yellowish, or white patches
  • hair loss at the rash area

Read more on seborrheic eczema.

Scarlet fever

Child with scarlet fever rashShare on Pinterest
Scarlet fever often results from an untreated strep throat. (badobadop, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Scarlet fever is a medical emergency. Urgent care is required.

Scarlet fever typically occurs at the same time as or right after an untreated strep throat infection. It causes symptoms like:

  • a rash of tiny bumps that feel like “sandpaper” to the touch
  • bright red tongue
  • a bright red rash all over the body (but not on the palms of your hands and soles of your feet) in light skin colors
  • a difficult-to-spot rash on dark skin colors, but identifiable by the sandpaper-like texture on the skin

Read more on scarlet fever.

Kawasaki disease

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

Kawasaki disease:

  • usually affects children under age 5
  • causes 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 more on Kawasaki disease.

Treatment for rashes depends on the cause.

To ease discomfort and speed up the healing process while undergoing treatment, consider these tips:

  • 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

A healthcare professional may recommend OTC medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen to treat mild pain associated with the rash.

These medications may not be taken for an extended period unless a healthcare professional advises you to. You may want to ask them how long and how often it’s safe for you to take OTC drugs. You may not be able to take them if you have liver or kidney disease or a history of stomach ulcers.

It may be a good idea to call a healthcare professional if the rash doesn’t resolve within a few days. If you’re experiencing other symptoms, like pain, bleeding, or flu-like symptoms, you may also want to seek medical care.

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

If you experience a rash along with any of the following symptoms, this may be a medical emergency:

  • 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

Medical care is also advised if you have a rash and these systemic symptoms:

  • joint pain
  • 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 check your rash. They may have questions about your:

  • rash
  • medical history
  • eating habits
  • recent use of products or medications
  • personal hygiene habits

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

A healthcare professional may also prescribe medications to relieve pain and itching associated with the rash. Depending on the cause of the rash, other medications and tests may be prescribed.

Depending on the cause of the rash, you may want to follow these tips:

  • Use home remedies like oatmeal and cold compresses to soothe mild contact rashes.
  • Identify potential triggers that may have caused or may worsen the rash and avoid them as much as possible.
  • Call a healthcare professional if the rash doesn’t go away with home treatments or if you’re experiencing other symptoms in addition to your rash.
  • Carefully follow any treatments a healthcare professional prescribes. Speak with a healthcare professional if your rash persists or worsens despite treatment.

How can I identify my rash?

The best way to identify a rash and its cause is to seek the help of a board-certified dermatologist.The cause of a rash may be difficult to identify on your own because rashes may present as splotches, bumps, or blisters. They can be itchy, scaly, and red, and some may look different on different skin tones. Rashes may develop in one specific area of the skin or all over the body. They may disappear and reappear randomly, or stay indefinitely.

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, plant reactions, 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.

Some rashes signal a medication emergency. If your rash progresses quickly, causes pain and intense itching, and doesn’t resolve within a few days, consider seeking medical care.

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