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Health > skin changes >skin rashes

Skin rashes

There are many possible causes of a rash and any rash needs prompt investigation by a doctor or a dermatologist. Rashes can be caused by illnesses such as viruses (e.g chicken pox) or systemic conditions (e.g. lupus), by allergies such as hives or eczema, parasites like lice in scabies, by reactions to chemicals, and by numerous other causes. One of the most feared but less common rashes is that caused by meningococcal disease, which is a characteristic hemorrhagic rash, caused by bleeding of capillaries just under the skin (see hemorrhagic rash for more details). Any type of hemorrhagic rash is a medical emergency.

What Causes Skin Rashes?

Infections: Bacteria, viruses and fungi are common causes of skin rashes.

Infestations: Some skin rashes are caused by tiny parasites like lice and mites.

Irritants and Allergies: Insect bites or stings, plants like poison ivy, certain foods, abrasion, heat or sun exposure, chemical pollutants, medications, chemicals found in household cleaners, cosmetics, an overly dry environment—this is just a sampling of possible causes of skin rashes.

Systemic Illnesses: Skin rashes may be one of the symptoms of a primary disease like rheumatic fever, Lupus or Lyme disease.

But the precise cause of many skin rashes, like psoriasis and eczema, is still unknown. Stress, hormonal changes, genetic predisposition, and autoimmune problems are among the factors thought to be associated with some skin rashes.

Home Care

Most simple rashes will improve with gentle skin care and avoiding irritating substances. Follow these general guidelines:

Avoid scrubbing your skin.

Use as little soap as possible. Use gentle cleansers instead.

Avoid applying cosmetic lotions or ointments directly on the rash.

Use warm (not hot) water for cleaning. Pat dry, don't rub.

Eliminate any newly added cosmetics or lotions.

Leave the affected area exposed to the air as much as possible.

Try calamine medicated lotion for poison ivy, oak, or sumac as well as other types of contact dermatitis.


Scratch the itch

Use regular bath soap.

Use any skin products or laundry products with added fragrances.

Shower daily. If you must, use recommended cleansers only (see Recommended Products section).

Allow wool clothing or blankets against your skin.

Expose your skin to very cold or hot air.

What are normal skin changes during pregnancy?

The most common skin changes in pregnancy are:

Melasma: brown, clearly defined patches on the face, typically on the cheekbones and forehead.

Darkening of the nipples and external genitals (pubic area).

Darkening of existing moles.

Linea nigra: a dark line that appears on the abdomen, running straight down from the umbilicus (belly button).

Striae gravidarum (stretch marks of pregnancy): red lines or bands that can appear on the abdomen during pregnancy, or the breasts after breastfeeding, which later become white, smooth, shiny and flattened.

Veins on the skin can become more obvious.

Varicose (swollen) veins can appear on the legs.

An increase in the number of skin tags (small, harmless skin outgrowths that occur especially on the neck, but can be found on any part of body).

Acne can worsen.

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