When to See Your Doctor About a Rash

by Eileen Bailey Health Writer

You have a rash. It's red and itchy and you aren't sure whether to call your doctor or take a trip to the pharmacy for some over-the-counter cream. Skin rashes come in all shapes and sizes and while they can be common, they can also be scary. When you are suddenly covered with red bumps, blisters or a spreading pinkish, scaly or inflamed patches you wonder if it is the sign of something serious.

The good news is, most rashes disappear on their own within a few days and the itching is often relieved by over-the counter creams, lotions and antihistamines. Talk with your pharmacist if you aren't sure which lotion or cream would work best on your rash.

Common Causes of Rashes

There are many different conditions that may cause a rash and many have distinct characteristics that may help you determine what the underlying cause of the rash is. Some of the common causes include:

  • Allergies

  • Bacterial or fungal infections

  • Insect bites

  • Reaction to plants, such as poison ivy

  • Stress

  • Reaction to environmental toxins

  • Fungal infections

  • Heat

  • Illness, such as chicken pox or shingles

  • Side effects of medication

When trying to determine the cause of your rash, think back to what you have eaten, where you have been and who or what and who you have come into contact with.

When to Call the Doctor

The following are reasons you should contact your doctor about a rash:

  • If your rash doesn't go away or show any signs of improvement within a few days.

  • If you are experiencing additional symptoms, such as joint pain, fever, body aches, breathlessness, headache, swollen tongue or sore throat - in this case you should seek immediate medical care

  • If the rash continues to progress or is extensive

  • If the rash shows signs of infection, with oozing or pus

  • If there are large, fluid-filled blisters accompanying the rash

  • If the rash occurred shortly after eating, taking medication or being stung by an insect and is quickly progressing - in this case you should seek immediate medical help

  • If the rash is painful.

  • If you have additional skin symptoms such as bleeding blisters, swelling, extensive peeling of your skin or skin that is changing colors or turning dark.

  • If you have recently been exposed to someone with a strep infection

  • If the rash is interfering with completing daily activities or preventing you from sleeping

  • If self-help methods are not working

Remember, your doctor is there to help you. If none of the above situations apply to your situation but you are still concerned about your rash and you would feel better speaking to your doctor, then, by all means, call and make an appointment.


"Rash 101: Introduction to Common Skin Rashes," Date Unknown, Staff Writer, MedicineNet.com

"Skin Rashes," 1996, Don R. Powell, Ph.D. The American Institute for Preventive Medicine's Self-Care: Your Family Guide to Symptoms and How to Treat Them

Eileen Bailey
Meet Our Writer
Eileen Bailey

Eileen Bailey is an award-winning author of six books on health and parenting topics and freelance writer specializing in health topics including ADHD, Anxiety, Sexual Health, Skin Care, Psoriasis and Skin Cancer. Her wish is to provide readers with relevant and practical information on health conditions to help them make informed decisions regarding their health care.