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Acute Rash

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 2, 2022.

What is an acute rash?

A rash is irritated, red, or itchy skin or mucus membranes, such as the lining of your nose or throat. Acute means the rash starts suddenly, worsens quickly, and lasts a short time.

What are some common types of rashes?

  • Eczema causes inflamed, itchy areas. Your skin may be dry, scaly, and thick. The outer layer may be damaged. Irritants, stress, or a family history of eczema make you more likely to get it.
  • Contact dermatitis causes a small, itchy growth that may be flat or raised. It appears after you touch something that damages your skin or causes an allergic reaction. Examples include chemicals, metals, dye, soaps or detergents, and latex.
  • Atopic dermatitis causes small, itchy, blister-like growths along skin lines and folds. The growths may ooze fluid and become scaly, crusted, or hard. You may have sore, dry skin or swollen eyes. This rash usually forms after you are around an allergen, are overheated, or wear rough clothing.
  • Urticaria (hives) appears suddenly as patches and raised areas of swollen skin or mucus membrane. The area may itch or burn. Common causes include allergens, latex, certain foods, a bee sting, smoke, or a blood transfusion.
  • Pityriasis rosea may appear before you get a disease caused by bacteria or a virus. The rash may look like a patch on your chest, back, or abdomen. The rash may spread to become small, red, cone-shaped bumps that usually grow in groups.

How is an acute rash diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider may know what kind of rash you have by looking at it. Tell him or her when and where the rash first appeared. Describe how often you get the rash and if anything causes it, such as food, activity, or stress. Give your provider a list of your medicines, allergies, and health conditions. Include any family history of rashes. A dermatologist (skin specialist) may help find the cause of your rash.

How is an acute rash treated?

Treatment will depend on the condition causing your acute rash. You may need any of the following:

  • Medicines may be used to decrease itching or inflammation, or prevent or treat a bacterial infection. Medicines may also help your immune system fight infection or stop it from attacking your skin.
  • Ultraviolet phototherapy means the rash is put under light. Light therapy helps treats atopic dermatitis or eczema that does not get better with steroids. It can help pityriasis rosea heal faster and decrease itching.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

What can I do to help prevent a rash or care for my skin when I 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:

  • Help soothe your rash. Apply thick cream lotions or petroleum jelly. Cool compresses may also 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 made of cotton instead of nylon or wool. Cotton is softer, so it will not hurt your skin as much.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have sudden trouble breathing or chest pain.
  • You are vomiting, have a headache, your throat hurts, or your muscles are painful.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have a fever.
  • You get a cough or cold, or your eyes are red and swollen.
  • You get open wounds from scratching your skin, or you have a wound that is red, swollen, or painful.
  • You get sores or blisters in your mouth or genital area, or the skin in those areas is peeling off.
  • You have new signs or symptoms while being treated with medicines.
  • You have swelling or pain in your joints.
  • Your rash lasts longer than 3 months.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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