Rashes are no fun. They’re also hard to identify, which can make you stressed, which can often make the rash worse.

Here are answers to commonly asked questions to hopefully take (some of) the itch out of your struggle.

Q1: Do I Need to See a Doctor?

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following:

  • increasing pain or discoloration
  • tightness of the throat or difficulty breathing
  • swelling of the face
  • new pain or a new rash
  • fever over 100°F
  • confusion or dizziness
  • severe head or neck pain
  • vomiting or diarrhea

Contact your healthcare provider if you:

  • have joint pain
  • have a sore throat and low fever
  • see red streaks or feel tender areas near the rash
  • believe a tick bit you

Q2: What Rash Do I Have?

If you just got back from a treacherous hike through the woods, you could have poison oak. If you haven’t left your desk in 5 hours, it could be a simple allergic reaction. There are many types of rashes, and you can learn more about them here. While we don’t recommend looking at the photos on a first date, they can be very helpful. If you’re still stumped, you could always take a photo and ask an online or clinic dermatologist.

Q3: Is It Ever Okay to Scratch?

No. Scratching can often make the rash worse. If you can’t resist the urge, at least trim your nails to avoid damaging the skin and spreading infection. Other good ideas include:

  • avoiding hot water
  • moisturizing
  • taking off your grandma’s wool sweater

Q4: What Will the Doctor Do That I Can’t?

Your doctor will diagnose the rash by asking questions and, if necessary, running blood or skin tests (biopsies and scrapings). Treatment options include:

  • topical gels, creams, and ointments
  • oral medicine
  • surgery

Q5: What Can I Do at Home?

Once you quit scratching, the NIH suggests you:

  • clean the rash with a gentle cleanser
  • lay off the perfume, cologne, cosmetics, and lotion
  • let your skin breathe
  • moisturize
  • take an oatmeal bath