A rash is an abnormal change in the skin, usually caused by some type of irritation. Some rashes (acute rashes) have no other symptoms and go away on their own or with over-the-counter medication. Rashes that are persistent or more severe (chronic rashes), or occur with symptoms such as fever or shortness of breath, may require professional medical care.


Rashes that affect only a small area or only one part of the body are usually caused by something outside the body, such as an insect bite, friction or an allergic reaction. Rashes that affect a larger area of the body or several parts of the body can be caused by skin conditions such as psoriasis or dry skin. They can also be caused by an infection or a serious allergic reaction.

Is my rash serious?

In determining the severity of your rash, try to remember when it started. Acute rashes that come on suddenly usually are not serious unless they occur with other symptoms. Chronic rashes are not usually serious, but they can be more difficult to treat.

If you have a rash, take special note of any other symptoms you may be experiencing, such as fever, itching, nausea, vomiting, bleeding or pain. There are some serious medical conditions, such as lupus, arthritis, diabetes and serious allergic reactions that can cause rashes and other symptoms.

You should also evaluate the size, shape, color, texture, and distribution of the rash. You’ll know if an infection is present if there is redness, swelling or discharge in the affected area.