Causes of Rashes
Rashes and skin irritations can be bothersome, embarrassing, and even, in some cases, a serious concern. There are both medical and alternative ways to deal with them. Rashes can appear anywhere on the body, and they occur for a wide variety of reasons. These changes to the skin texture and color can be bumpy, chapped, dry, blistered, and cause pain. Depending on the cause of the rash, treatments will be different. It is important to know if the rash is contagious due to certain diseases, and not all types of rashes are contagious.
So many factors can cause this skin irritation, such as allergies, anxiety, irritants, vaccinations, eczema, acne, heat, or friction. Rarely, they will be due to autoimmune disorders, pregnancy, Lyme disease, or scarlet fever.1 Contact dermatitis occurs when skin becomes irritated from contact with particular substances which cause irritation, such as certain fabrics, cosmetics, or metals, for example. A surface or substance which one person would develop a rash from might not affect a different person while some substances, such as poison ivy, affect a large number of people. Diaper rash, bites, stings, and fungal infections are also typical causes of rashes, as are drug allergies. Other infections can also cause rashes, such as shingles, fifth disease, rheumatic fever, mononucleosis, which is more commonly referred to as “mono”, West Nile virus, ringworm, and German measles (rubella). MRSA, a staph infection, can be life threatening.2
There are many other kinds of disorders and diseases that can trigger rashes as well. An allergic reaction to poison ivy or certain foods can make a person develop rashes or hives. Latex can cause a serious allergic reaction in some people, especially in health care and rubber industry workers. Someone who is not allergic to a certain substance could develop an allergy following prolonged, repeated contact. In a similar fashion, this same extended duration of contact could cause a rash in someone who is otherwise not allergic to the material.
Viral, yeast, and bacterial infections, as well as some sexually transmitted diseases, can all be culprits in the development of rashes on different areas of the body. Some types of skin irritations are formed as a result of chronic skin problems, such as psoriasis, seborrheic dermatitis, acne, or eczema. Others are more situational, such as skin irritations caused by cold weather, heat rash, and stress. Any rash which has persisted for a greatly extended period of time and which has also been resistant to common forms of treatment could be a cause for concern.3
Typical Rash Treatments
For rashes caused by poison ivy, it is important to clean the skin to remove the oils of the plant. While the rash itself is not contagious, there is the potential for the oil to spread via contact, which is why it is so important to immediately clean the affected area. Scratching will not help the situation, as scratching many types of rashes is more likely to just irritate the area and slow down the healing process. For itch relief, the area affected by poison ivy should be kept cool and moist. An oatmeal bath may provide comfort. Dry skin will also make the itching worse. Over-the-counter treatments for itching include calamine lotion, hydrocortisone cream, and oral antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (i.e., Benadryl).
If the particular rash is causing a feeling of pain, some patients might seek acetaminophen, NSAIDs, or aspirin.4 If the rash itself becomes infected or is contagious, it is important to consult with a professional about treatments. Infection could allow further problems to develop due to open-air contact with bacteria.
Some rashes develop as a reaction to the patient’s allergies. Dermic rashes are on the skin, and they are caused by direct physical contact with an allergen. Systemic rashes are from something a person might have ingested, such as tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, milk, or seafood. Finding out the triggers can help prevent the rash. Patients should know their own allergies in order to safely avoid what could be potentially life-threatening triggers. Even allergies which are not as severe could worsen with continued contact or consumption of the allergen.
Some natural options for treating skin rashes could include chamomile tea, olive oil, cod liver oil, and vitamin E. Raw apple cider vinegar, raw honey, and vitamin C may also be helpful.5 Sunburns may be soothed by aloe. Burt’s Bees buttermilk lotion could help some people with eczema or contact dermatitis. Stress reduction is also important. Yoga, acupressure, and meditation can help with this.6 Chiropractic care, massage, and acupuncture are all useful therapies in putting the body back in balance, thereby reducing inflammation. Chiropractors may be able to boost the immune system by keeping the body in alignment so that the nerves are not irritated. They may also suggest dietary changes and nutritional supplements.