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Home » Medical » Rashes & Itching

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A rash is a region of inflamed skin, typically characterized by itching and redness. Depending on the type of outbreak, it may also exhibit pimples, blisters, scales, bumps, cracking, swelling, and chapping.

Some rashes are hot and painful. Severe inflammation may indicate disease. While scratching is hard to resist, it can lead to bleeding, making you vulnerable to infection.

Here are some common rashes and how best to treat them.


  • Appearance: Skin shows itchy welts. On linens, you’ll see blood stains, shed skins, eggshells, and rust-colored droppings. To spot insects, examine your mattress, box spring, and wood frames. Also, check your bedroom closet, books, and rugs or carpet.
  • Cause: Bedbugs hitchhike into the home via clothing, used furniture, and luggage. Once inside, they camp on headboards, bed frames, box springs, and mattresses, biting people during sleep.
  • Treatment: Wash your curtains, linens, and clothing in hot water, and dry them on the highest setting. Heat-treat items you can’t run through a washer with a cycle in the dryer for 30 minutes.

Run a stiff brush over your mattress, including the seams, followed by vacuuming. Then, seal the vacuum bag inside a plastic bag, and discard outside. Protect your box spring and mattress from re-infestation by enclosing them in zippered plastic covers. To ensure all bedbugs are killed, you may wish to hire an exterminator.

Contact Dermatitis

This rash occurs when skin touches a chemical or material that’s irritating or allergenic.

  • Appearance – Impacted skin produces oozing welts or itchy blisters.
  • Causes – Common agents of contact dermatitis are poison oak, poison ivy, poison sumac, and nickel-based jewelry.
  • Treatment – If possible, immediately wash your skin with mild soap and cool water. To soothe blisters, apply a cold, moist cloth for 30 minutes, three times daily. Hydrocortisone may fade a small rash, and moisturizer helps to heal damaged skin. To relieve itching, take a drugstore antihistamine.

If dermatitis is no better after three days, make an appointment at MetroDerm. Your dermatologist may order skin tests to pinpoint the source. For severe rashes, we prescribe antihistamine and steroid medication.

Diaper Rash

Diaper rash is another type of contact dermatitis, from prolonged exposure to urine and stool.

  • Appearance: Skin is red, warm, and sometimes swollen. There may also be red spots or bumps.
  • Causes: Additionally, diaper rash can result from chafing, allergy to food or medication ingested by a nursing mother, and giving a child antibiotics. It can also be caused by sensitivity to diaper material, baby wipes, detergent, fabric softener, bleach, baby oil, lotion, and powder.
  • Treatment: Keep skin clean and dry with frequent diaper changes. Gently cleanse skin with a soft, wet cloth, and avoid wipes containing alcohol. Then, apply a barrier cream, such as Triple Paste, A+D, Desitin, or Balmex.

If there’s no improvement after three days of home treatment, call MetroDerm to make an appointment. Don’t delay if the rash is bright red, bleeds, blisters, oozes, itches, or is accompanied by fever. Also, see us promptly if your child complains of burning or pain with urination or bowel movements.


This condition results from immune malfunction. Eczema arising during infancy and childhood sometimes dissipates with age. It can be cyclic in duration, flaring and then subsiding.

  • Appearance: Skin patches are scaly, rough, itchy, cracked, crusty, red, and sometimes blistered. Common sites are the scalp, face, nape of the neck, wrists, elbows, knees, and ankles.
  • Causes: Sometimes the condition is inherited. Eczema may also be traced to physical irritants, such as soap, shampoo, detergent, heat, cold, perspiration, and insect bites. Allergens that spur eczema are pollen, smoke, mold, and dust mites. Common food sources are eggs, soy, nuts, seeds, wheat, and dairy products.
  • Treatment: We relieve discomfort with medication and ultraviolet light therapy. At home, use eczema-specific moisturizers, soap, and steroid creams.

Fungal & Yeast

These rashes are typically acquired at gyms, pools, locker rooms, public showers, or from tubs infected by a family member.

  • Appearance: Skin is fiery red, with blisters around the perimeter.
  • Cause: Germs breed in skin folds that trap moisture.
  • Treatment: For a mild infection, apply an anti-fungal cream, such as Mycelex, Lotrimin, or Lamisil. For a severe rash or toenail involvement, make an appointment with one of our dermatologists for treatment.

Heat Rash

This condition develops when skin is too warm.

  • Appearance: Skin is peppered with small pimples or blisters. Areas prone to heat rash are the groin, upper chest, neck, elbow creases, and underneath breasts.
  • Cause: Sweat ducts become blocked by trapped perspiration.
  • Treatment: Apply over-the-counter 1 percent hydrocortisone cream for up to one week. To control itching, you can take Benadryl, Vistaril, and Atarax, sold by pharmacies. To avoid recurrence, keep your skin cool and dry. If the rash doesn’t fade after a week of self-treatment, make an appointment at MetroDerm for treatment.


This is an eruption of weals, quickly changing size and location and frequently accompanied by stinging.

  • Appearance: Hives are raised, itchy welts that emerge in various shapes and sizes, each lasting six to 24 hours.
  • Causes: Common triggers are extreme heat, cold, sunlight, viral infection, and emotional stress. Hives can also be an allergic response to certain foods, artificial coloring, preservatives, detergent, soap, chemicals, and insect bites. Drugs that can provoke hives are aspirin, codeine, and ibuprofen. Sometimes the source of hives can’t be traced.
  • Treatment: Welts often disappear spontaneously, especially when a causative allergen is eliminated. Antihistamines and cold compresses expedite healing.

MetroDerm recommends seeing one of our dermatologists if hives are very uncomfortable, disturb sleep, or persist beyond three days. Since weals can rapidly fade and reappear, take a picture to show your dermatologist and document additional symptoms. Promptly go to an urgent care center or hospital if hives are accompanied by breathing difficulty, dizziness, or swelling of the face, lips, or tongue.

Lyme Disease

  • Appearance: A telltale sign of Lyme disease is a bulls-eye rash, a red ring surrounding a blotch.
  • Cause: Staph or strep bacteria initiate folliculitis, impetigo, and cellulitis. In rare cases, strep throat can progress to scarlet fever, producing a body-wide rash. Ticks transmit bacteria, causing the rashes and other symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever, tularemia, ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, relapsing fever, and Lyme disease.
  • Treatment: See a MetroDerm dermatologist promptly for professional care of all bacterial and pus-filled rashes.


Like eczema, an immune malfunction causes this type of rash. Most often, psoriasis onset is between ages 15 to 35 and 50 to 60.

  • Appearance: Skin patches are dry, scaly, silvery, and flaky. Surrounding skin is pink or red. Typically affected are the scalp, palms, nails, elbows, back, trunk, knees, and soles.
  • Cause: Psoriasis originates from faulty T-cells. When these white blood cells mistakenly regard healthy skin cells as foreign, they attack them. Then, targeted cells reproduce five times faster than normal. Thickening tissue forms raised patches called “plaques.” To heal plaques, the body directs more blood to the surface skin, making it swollen and red. Why T-cells become impaired isn’t clear. Among the implicated factors are heredity, infection, skin injury, hormonal changes, anxiety, and stress. Drugs that incite psoriasis are lithium, quinidine, indomethacin, and antimalarials. Environmental triggers are cold temperatures, smoking, and alcohol.
  • Treatment: Some people see improvement with dietary changes. Cool showers and moisturizers also help. We provide medications and treatments that relieve inflammation and improve cellular turnover.


This highly contagious disease is traced to parasitic mites. Infestations flourish in close quarters, such as nursing homes, childcare centers, schools, and prisons.

  • Appearance: The rash is very itchy, comprised of small red blisters, bumps, and skin tunnels. On adults, the mites favor wrists, posterior elbows, knees, feet, the waist, navel, underarms, breasts, genital area, buttocks, and between the fingers. Common sites on children are the palms, face, head, neck, and soles. Itching worsens at night, disturbing sleep. To see the mites, you need a magnifying glass or doctor’s microscope.
  • Cause: Scabies mites are eight-legged insects, spread through direct contact. Dogs and cats aren’t carriers.
  • Treatment: We cure scabies with prescription creams and oral medications. To eradicate the mites, wash linens and clothing in hot water.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

This is the most prevalent type of rash, affecting people of all ages. Infants are prone to developing it over the buttocks. When it occurs on a baby’s head, it’s called “cradle cap.” Seborrheic dermatitis affects skin areas with oil glands, such as the forehead, eyebrows, cheeks, nose, scalp, chest, and back. Poor hygiene isn’t at fault.

  • Appearance: Skin is greasy, swollen, red, and crusted with yellow or white scales. The rash may also burn and itch.
  • Cause: Contributing factors are genes, hormones, stress, and fungus. Environmental triggers are soap, detergent, chemicals, solvents, and a cold, dry climate. People with disease of the immune and nervous systems are at higher risk.
  • Treatment: We control mild inflammation with anti-fungal cream or medicated shampoo. For severe cases, we prescribe corticosteroids, topical calcineurin inhibitors, and oral anti-fungal drugs.


Once chickenpox recedes, the varicella-zoster virus (VZV) remains in the body in a dormant state, residing in nerve tissue near the brain and spinal cord. At any time, typically after age 50, the virus can revive, producing a rash.

  • Symptoms: Shingles first begins as pain along the torso, on the side of the face, or around the eye, followed by red blisters a few days later. Affected skin also burns, tingles, or feels numb. As VZV progresses, blisters break and crust. Accompanying symptoms are headache, fatigue, fever, and sensitivity to light.
  • Cause: VZV reactivates when a person’s immune system is weak. Primary factors that reduce immunity are poor diet, inadequate sleep, and stress. Until the blisters scab, shingles is contagious. Anyone not immune to chickenpox is susceptible to infection, through contact with open blisters.
  • Treatment: At the first sign of shingles, make an appointment with us. Complications are possible, especially in people age 60+ and those who develop an eye rash.

Resolution of shingles takes two to six weeks. Until healing is complete, treat the blisters with cool washcloths and oatmeal baths. After touching the rash, thoroughly wash your hands. MetroDerm, P.C. provides medication to relieve shingles pain. After healing, it’s advisable to obtain the shingles vaccine to prevent recurrence. Anyone who hasn’t acquired chickenpox should be vaccinated against the virus. As a preventive measure, those age 60+ who have been infected with chickenpox should obtain the shingles vaccine.

Make an appointment to speak with one of our trusted Skin Care Providers to discuss options for treating rashes & itching.