What is a rash?
Our skin cells protect the skin and body against viruses, bacteria, and other threats. Whenever these cells detect a suspicious substance, they begin a chain reaction in the skin that leads to inflammation (as is the case with allergies, the body tricks itself into believing something is dangerous when it’s not). The medical name for this reaction is dermatitis. But it’s more commonly referred to as a rash.
A rash is an area of irritated or swollen skin: any sort of inflammation or discoloration that changes the skin's normal appearance. The most common rashes are itchy, red, painful, and irritating. Some rashes can also lead to blisters or patches of raw skin. To the untrained eye, all rashes may look alike and seem easily treatable with over-the-counter oral antihistamines or hydrocortisone cream. Dermatologists want you to know that it’s not always so simple: rashes are a symptom of many different medical problems. This is why it’s important to stay vigilant. Nonetheless, for most of us, rashes are simply caused by irritating substances and allergies.
Common rashes to be aware of.
There are many different types of dermatitis, and each has a distinct set of treatments. Sometimes the skin’s immune cells react to something that directly touches the skin. Other times, the immune system flares in the skin because of a whole-body infection or illness.
Irritant contact dermatitis
This type is more common. It develops when something irritates the skin. With enough contact, most things will irritate our skin. Many substances, such as cleaning products or industrial chemicals, that you come into contact with cause this condition. The irritant will cause a rash on anyone exposed to it, but some people's skin may be more easily affected. People often get this rash at work. Beauticians, swimmers, nurses, bartenders, and others who spend lots of time with wet hands get this. It often starts with dry, cracked hands. In time, the skin on their hands may begin to sting and burn. The skin becomes very tender. Sometimes, the skin itches and bleeds.
Common conditions and irritants include:
- Irritated skin around the mouth from licking your lips
- Dry, cracked hands due to lots of contact with water
- Pepper spray
- Battery acid
- Latex gloves
- Poison ivy
- Seldom used makeup
- Skin redness
- Dry, scaly, or crusted skin that might become thick and leathery from long-term scratching
- Formation of small, fluid-filled blisters that might ooze when scratched
- Infection of the areas where the skin has been broken
- debilitating pain
- rash appears suddenly and spreads rapidly
- rash covers your entire body
- difficulty breathing: go to the emergency room or call 995 (or whatever the emergency ambulance telephone number is in your country).
- blistering of your rash
- infection of your rash. 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.
- fever. If you have a fever combined with a rash, your conditions is likely very serious. Don't take any risks, go to the emergency room.
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