Adult Rashes: When to See a Doctor

A rash can appear on your body when you least expect it. While many rashes require nothing more than a trip to the drug store for an over-the-counter remedy, some can be a sign of a more serious condition.

What Causes Rashes?

Adults can experience rashes for many reasons. The most common cause is contact dermatitis, which happens when a substance that causes irritation touches your skin, resulting in red, bumpy and itchy areas. Cosmetics, soaps, detergents, fragrances, jewelry and certain plants can all cause this type of rash. Other common rash culprits include insect bites and seborrheic dermatitis, which presents as red, scaly patches of skin. Age, stress, oily skin and extreme weather conditions can bring on this type of rash.

These common rashes will often clear up with the use of oral antihistamines, hydrocortisone cream or medicated calamine lotion. If your rash doesn’t respond to over-the-counter treatments or gets worse, visit your healthcare provider. You might have a skin disorder such as eczema or psoriasis, or you might have a more serious condition.

When Should I Worry About a Rash?

Sometimes, a rash can be your body’s way of alerting you to a serious illness or allergic reaction. If you experience any of the following symptoms along with a rash, don’t wait to visit a healthcare provider:

  • Severe pain and/or blistering. These symptoms can be signs of allergic reactions, shingles and other internal conditions.
  • Yellow or green pus, red streaks or warmth in the rash area. These symptoms may indicate that the rash has become infected. This can signify a bacterial or viral infection.
  • A circular rash that expands gradually, especially if you think you may have been bitten by a tick. This can be a sign of Lyme disease.
  • Red or purple spots or an itchy, lumpy rash. These are warning signs of vasculitis, an inflammation of the blood vessels.

The providers at River’s Edge Hospital’s Urgent Care Department are available seven days a week to diagnose and treat the cause of your rash.

How Do I Know if a Rash Is an Emergency?

In certain cases, a rash can be the result of a life-threatening allergy to medication or food. Go to the emergency room if you experience any of the following:

  • A rash that appears suddenly and spreads all over your body
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swollen face, eyelids, lips or throat

How Can I Take Care of a Rash at Home?

For most rashes, these tips will help soothe the area and reduce itching:

  • Use gentle cleansers, and avoid scrubbing your skin.
  • Clean with warm—not hot—water, and pat yourself dry.
  • Try oatmeal-based body wash.
  • Apply cooling agents, such as calamine or menthol, to the affected areas.
  • Use moisturizer that does not contain additives or fragrances.
  • Apply cream or ointments that contain pramoxine or hydrocortisone to stop itching.

Need to see a healthcare provider but don’t want to wait to make an appointment? The friendly nurse practitioners at River’s Edge Hospital’s Urgent Care Department accept walk-in patients seven days a week. Conveniently located at the hospital’s main entrance, Urgent Care is open Monday–Friday from noon to 7:30 p.m. and weekends from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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