A Guide to Rashes
Skin Rash Istock

Rashes, or dermatitis, on the skin are indicators that something is wrong. Cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Ava Shamban explains, “The skin is the largest organ in the body, so we really have to pay attention to it.”

The most common cause of rashes is contact dermatitis, which is inflammation of the skin through contact with everyday materials. Skin irritation can also be triggered by a particular substance that causes an allergic reaction, which is known as allergic contact dermatitis. 

The most common rash-producing allergens are nickel, rubber, preservatives, additives found in hand creams and lotions, as well as urushiol, the oil found in plants like poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. 

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Rashes can also be caused by insect bites and stings as well as medical conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, impetigo, shingles and childhood illnesses such as chickenpox, measles, rubella and scarlet fever. 

Hydrocortisone, oatmeal baths and medicated calamine lotion are the most commonly used treatments to relieve the symptoms of rashes, although antibacterial creams and oral antibiotics can also be prescribed. In addition, to help with skin irritation, practice gentle skin care methods, avoid irritating substances and fabrics, and expose the affected areas to air whenever possible.

“In serious scenarios where there is a sign of an underlying, significant infection, you really do need to talk to your doctor”, Dr. Travis advises.  In cases where the rash is mild, Dr. Travis demonstrates how a solution of 50 percent olive oil and 50 percent honey will naturally soothe the irritated area.

Types of Rashes:

Contact Dermatitis
This type of rash occurs when a person comes in contact with something they are allergic to. Poison ivy and poison oak are common culprits, as well as other allergens such nickel, mango, as well as fragrance and colorings found in lip balms and lotions.

Viral
This type of rash is caused by a viral infection such as fever blisters or shingles. People who had chickenpox as a child are at risk of developing shingles as an adult, as they are in the same viral family. If you start to feel a painful sensation in a band-like formation around your chest, make sure to get it checked out right away. Viral rashes are often preceded by tingling or pain, so if it is recognized and treated quickly, an outbreak can be avoided.  

Bacterial
The most common type of bacterial rash is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which occurs when the skin is broken – whether due to eczema, bug bites, cuts or some other opening in the skin – and the bacteria gets in and results in infection. This type of rash is considered a medical emergency, so make sure to call your doctor immediately.

Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis (TEN)
This type of rash is an allergic reaction - often to an antibiotic - and is life-threatening. The reaction is so extreme and drastic that the skin literally starts peeling off in sheets, but luckily, it’s extremely uncommon. 

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