Self-Care for Skin Rashes

A rash is your skin’s reaction to a substance your body is sensitive to. Most rashes can be treated at home by keeping the skin clean and dry. Many rashes are self-limited and may resolve within 2 to 3 days. Rashes that itch, drain, or hurt may require the attention of a doctor, particularly if the rash is getting worse.

Common causes of rashes

  • Sun poisoning, caused by too much exposure to the sun

  • An irritant or allergic reaction to a certain type of  food, plant, or chemical. Examples include shellfish, poison ivy and or cleaning products

  • An infection caused by a fungus (ringworm), virus (chickenpox), or bacteria (strep)

  • Bites or infestation due to insects or pests, such as ticks, lice, or mites

  • Dry skin, which is often seen during the winter months and in elderly people

Control itching and skin damage

  • Take soothing baths. Try 1 cup of oatmeal in a tub of warm water Water that evaporates is cooling to the skin.

  • Do your best not to scratch. Clip fingernails, especially in young children, to reduce skin damage if scratching does occur.

  • Use moisturizing skin lotion instead of scratching your dry skin.

  • Use sunscreen whenever going out into direct sun.

Only mild cleansing agents whenever possible

  • Wash with mild, nonirritating soap and warm water.

  • Wear clothing that breathes, such as cotton shirts or canvas shoes.

  • If fluid is seeping from the rash, cover it loosely with clean gauze to absorb the discharge.

  • Many rashes are contagious. Prevent the rash from spreading to others by washing your hands frequently before or after touching others with any skin rash.

Use medication

  • Antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine, can help control itching of many rashes.

  • Using over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream on small rashes may help reduce swelling and itching.

    Most over-the-counter antifungal medications can treat athlete’s foot and many other fungal infections of the skin.

Check with your pharmacist If:

  • You were told that you have a fungal infection on your skin.

  • You have questions about or concerns of side effects of a medication. 

Call 911 If:

  • Your tongue or lips start to swell.

  • You have difficulty breathing.

Call Your health care provider If:

  • You have a temperature over 101.0°F (38.3°C)

  • You have a sore throat, a cough, or unusual fatigue.

  • You have an increasingly red, oozy, or painful rash (signs of infection).

  • You have a rash that covers your face, genitals, or most of your body.

  • You have crusty sores or red rings that begin to spread.

  • You were exposed to someone who has a contagious rash, such as scabies or lice.

  • You have a red bull’s-eye rash with a white center (a sign of Lyme disease).

  • You were told that you have resistant bacteria (MRSA) on your skin.