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Self-Care for Skin Rashes

When your skin reacts to a substance your body is sensitive to, it can cause a rash. You can treat most rashes at home by keeping the skin clean and dry. Many rashes may resolve on their own within 2 to 3 days. You may need medical attention if your rash itches, drains, or hurts, particularly if the rash is getting worse.

What can cause a skin rash?

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

  • An irritant or allergic reaction to a certain type of food, plant, or chemical, such as  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 older people

How can I control itching and skin damage?

  • Take soothing  lukewarm baths in a colloidal oatmeal preparation, which you can buy at the drugstore.

  • Do your best not to scratch. Clip fingernails short, 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.

  • Use 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, however use with caution as they can make you drowsy.

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

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

Check with your pharmacist

Call your pharmacist if:

  • You were told that you have a fungal infection on your skin to make sure you have the correct type of medicine

  • You have questionsor concerns about medicines or their side effects. 


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.


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