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Be ready for a severe allergy emergency.

Acute Rash


A rash is irritation, redness, or itchiness in the skin or mucus membranes. Mucus membranes are areas such as the lining of your nose or throat. Acute means the rash starts suddenly, worsens quickly, and lasts a short time. An acute rash may be caused by a disease, such as hepatitis or vasculitis. The rash may be a reaction to something you are allergic to, such as certain foods, or latex. Certain medicines, including antibiotics, NSAIDs, prescription pain medicine, and aspirin can also cause a rash.


Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have sudden trouble breathing or chest pain.
  • You are vomiting, have a headache or muscle aches, and your throat hurts.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You get open wounds from scratching your skin, or you have a wound that is red, swollen, or painful.
  • Your rash lasts longer than 3 months.
  • You have swelling or pain in your joints.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


If your rash does not go away on its own, you may need the following medicines:

  • Antihistamines may be given to help decrease itching.
  • Steroids may be given to decrease inflammation.
  • Antibiotics help fight or prevent a bacterial infection.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Prevent a rash or care for your skin when you have a rash:

Dry skin can lead to more problems. Do not scratch your skin if it itches. You may cause a skin infection by scratching. The following may prevent dry skin, and help your skin look better:

  • Use thick cream lotions or petroleum jelly to help soothe your rash. These products work well on areas with thick skin, such as your feet. Cool compresses may also be used to soothe your skin. Apply a cool compress or a cool, wet towel, and then cover it with a dry towel.
  • Use lukewarm water when you bathe. Hot water may damage your skin more. Pat your skin dry. Do not rub your skin with a towel.
  • Use detergents, soaps, shampoos, and bubble baths made for sensitive skin. Wear clothes that are made of cotton instead of nylon or wool. Cotton is softer, so it will not hurt your skin as much.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need to see a dermatologist if healthcare providers do not know what is causing your rash. You may also need to see a dermatologist if your rash does not get better even with treatment. You may need to see a dietitian if you have allergies to foods. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.