What to Do When You Have an Unexplained Rash

by Anne Windermere Patient Advocate

One of the most common questions we get here on My Skin Care Connection is about unexplained rashes. You guys have described pimples, red bumps, itching, irritated skin and more. You have described rashes and itches from your scalp to your toes. There are itchy people around the globe who come here for answers about their rash. There are people who do find the answers as to the cause of their itchy rash such as Itchy in Delaware, who found that the sores on her scalp were caused by an acute onset of adult eczema.

Yet there are some of you who have never found out what that rash was and come here to see if anyone else has similar symptoms. One of our most popular questions of all time was from a mom asking about "red bumps and blisters" on her children's skin. Over two hundred of you responded since that question was posted two years ago. Some of you have never found out what is causing you to have similar symptoms.

Are you itchy reading this yet? I have to tell you that on a personal note, every time I read about all these itches and rashes I begin to feel itchy myself In response to all the questions about rashes and especially including "itchy red bumps" as a symptom, I have begun a series of informational posts about everything and anything which can cause a rash. Some of the possibilities for causes of rashes include:

It is evident that I have a lot of writing to do because these four causes barely scratch the surface of all the many triggers for developing a rash. Discovering what is causing your rash is a bit like playing detective. You have to analyze the facts as you know them and sort through which facts are relevant for figuring out the source of your skin reaction.

Our Sue Chung helps us to go through the process of determining the cause of a rash with her article, "A Rash or Skin Allergies?" I am going to add to the information she provides with some questions to ask yourself to get a better idea of what is going on. Take the answers you give to these questions to your doctor or dermatologist.

Questions to answer about your rash:

  1. Do you have any other symptoms aside from a skin reaction? Do you have a fever, chills, nausea, or any other bodily symptoms?

  2. Does anyone else in your family have a similar rash? Have you been around anyone who has this same rash?

  3. What does the rash look like? A picture is worth a thousand words. Here are some images of skin rashes on Health Central you may wish to look at. Is the rash flat, raised, bumpy, or blistery? Is it red, patchy, or scaly? Has the rash spread?

  4. What does the rash feel like? Is it itchy? Is it painful? Does it burn?

  5. Were you out in the sun before developing your rash?

  6. Have you taken any new medications?

  7. Were you exposed to any outdoor triggers such as plants, animals, or insects?

  8. Have you used any new detergents, lotions, soaps, cosmetics or perfumes? Are you using any products made of latex?

  9. Do you have any food allergies that you know of?

  10. Is the rash going away or is it unchanged over time?

Writer Sue Chung gives advice on what you should do if you suspect that your skin reaction is caused by some sort of allergy: "Use calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to relieve itching and aloe to sooth burning. Occasionally, taking a Benadryl or a similar over-the-counter antihistamine medication can help reduce the allergic reaction. Aveeno's oatmeal-infused Soothing Bath Treatment can also take the edge off itching and inflammation if the rash covers a large area of the skin. While it's tempting to scratch, refrain from doing so since this can lead to infection and scarring."

My best advice about rashes is to see your doctor. It is sometimes a guessing game to figure out what is causing the rash. Some rashes linger on because the trigger has not been found. I would also suggest seeing a dermatologist if your regular GP cannot diagnose the cause of the rash or provide a treatment which works for you. Another specialist who may help in some instances is an allergist.

One thing I will ask our members here to do is, if you have found the cause of your rash, please do discuss it here in the form of a sharepost. And if you are able, take a photo of the rash so we can see it. Remember that nobody can diagnose your rash except a doctor or dermatologist. But sometimes it does help to see what we are talking about. A lot of people write here for help but seldom come back to tell us what actually caused their rash and what treatments did work. So we would be very grateful if members could supply more of that type of firsthand information.

Summer is here and there are many itchy triggers we will be discussing in future posts so stay tuned! Thank you to all who participate and share on My Skin Care Connection.

Anne Windermere
Meet Our Writer
Anne Windermere

These articles were written by a longtime HealthCentral community member who shared valuable insights from her experience living with multiple chronic health conditions. She used the pen name "Merely Me."