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How to tell if a rash needs medical attention

A rash is a skin condition in which the color, appearance or texture of skin changes.

Rashes can appear as blotches, redness, bumps, lumps, welts, or blisters. They can be red,

itchy, scaly, dry, or weepy, and they can occur in one area of skin or all over the


In addition, some rashes may come and go, while others never seem to go away.

To the untrained eye, all rashes may look alike and seem easily treatable with over-the-counter

oral antihistamines or hydrocortisone cream.

However, since rashes have many causes, the best way to correctly diagnose a rash is to

see a dermatologist.

Although most rashes are not life-threatening, some may signal something more serious.

If you have a rash and notice any of the following symptoms, see a dermatologist immediately.

The rash is all over your body.

A rash that covers the body usually indicates something more serious, such as an infection

or allergic reaction.

You have a fever with the rash.

If this is the case, seek immediate medical attention.

This could be caused by a serious allergic reaction or an infection.

Examples of rashes caused by infection include scarlet fever, measles, mononucleosis, and


The rash appears suddenly and spreads rapidly.

This could be the result of an allergy.

Allergies to medications are common, and some can be serious.

If breathing becomes difficult, go to the emergency room immediately or call 911.

The rash is made up of blisters, or the rash turns into open sores.

This could be the result of an allergic reaction, a reaction to medication, or an internal cause.

Go to the emergency room immediately if the blisters affect your eyes, multiple areas

in your mouth or your genitals.

The rash is painful.

Painful rashes can be a sign of a serious problem and should quickly be evaluated by

a dermatologist.

The rash is infected.

If you have an itchy rash and you scratch it, it may become infected.

Signs of an infected rash are yellow or green fluid, swelling, crusting, pain and warmth

in the area of the rash, or a red streak coming from the rash.

Go to the emergency room or call 911 immediately if you have a rash and you’re having trouble

breathing or have swelling of the lips, tongue or throat.

Rashes can come in many forms and, depending on the cause, they can take days or even weeks

to heal.

Rather than try to treat the rash on your own, see a board-certified dermatologist.

A dermatologist is trained to tell which rashes require more extensive medical testing and

can properly diagnose the rash and determine the best course for treatment.

To find a dermatologist in your area, visit