Skin rashes can look red and feel itchy. The causes and symptoms of rashes can vary from person to person, but particularly include eczema and skin allergies:
- Eczema is common and can be hereditary. The cause for the skin disorder isn’t known, but experts believe that genetic, environmental and skin factors all play a role. Eczema may first appear in infants or toddlers with symptoms changing over time. It can become a drier, flaky rash in older children. Adults may experience eczema as patches of scaly, leathery skin. The main symptom of eczema is itching. When a person begins scratching at their rash, skin becomes even itchier and inflamed.
- Skin allergies can be caused by exposure to certain substances, which can vary from person to person. Dust mites, pollen, animal dander, or mold are all common allergens that can result in a flare-up. Food allergies can also cause a rash. These triggers cause the immune system to go into overdrive, resulting in inflammation of the skin. Substances that trigger an allergy attack can also make people with eczema to break out in a rash.
Wellness & Prevention
There are no known cures for skin rashes, eczema or skin allergies. Prevention is focused on reducing outbreaks by avoiding irritants.
Certain substances, behaviors or emotions can cause a rash in people with eczema or who are likely to have an allergic skin response. They may be sensitive to common products such as wool, detergents or fragrances. Emotional stress can trigger an outbreak, as can food allergies, sweating or even repeated hand-washing. Chemicals typically found in cleaning products can also cause a flare-up. Each person has different triggers. An important part of self-care is knowing and avoiding what triggers your skin reaction.
People who suffer from rashes like skin allergies or eczema often scratch to relieve the itchy sensation. However, scratching only makes the rash worse, and can also damage the skin. Use a cold compress to help lessen the urge to scratch. Keep skin well moisturized and use only mild soaps or cleansers and look for fragrance-free products to help prevent a worse reaction.
Some activities or careers may need to be avoided to prevent outbreaks. Jobs that require frequent hand-washing or exposure to chemicals may not be healthy for a person with skin prone to rashes.
There is no single test that can diagnose a rash. Your doctor will conduct a thorough evaluation which includes family and medical history. Any known allergies or allergic reactions will be discussed. During the evaluation, you may be asked about other skin conditions you have, substances that irritate your skin or any recent stress you’ve experienced. A doctor may confirm an eczema or allergy diagnosis based on the results of this evaluation, or additional information may be required.
Sometimes a doctor can determine whether or not a rash is eczema during a visual examination. More than one office visit may be necessary in order to rule out other conditions. A skin biopsy or allergy testing is helpful in obtaining a diagnosis.
Rash treatments work to heal damaged skin and alleviate the symptoms. A range of treatments are available based on severity of symptoms. Conservative treatment options are typically pursued first.
Medicated creams or ointments may help soothe irritated skin, but should not be used on children under two without medical supervision. Prescription topical medicines that can calm an overactive immune response may be effective.
Antihistamines can be taken to alleviate itching. Corticosteroids may be prescribed in stubborn cases that haven’t responded to other treatments. In rare cases, immunosuppressants may be recommended.
Phototherapy aims light at the affected area to reduce inflammation and itching. Light treatment also stimulates production of Vitamin D, and increased levels have been linked to a decrease in skin symptoms.
Although allergic skin rashes may be limited by avoiding trigger substances, there is currently no cure for eczema. For some it is a lifelong condition, while for others it disappears in time. Treatment is focused on disease management. Minimizing the triggers that can cause flare-ups, and medicating and soothing irritated skin is how to best control and care for eczema.
After a flare-up, moisturizing the affected area is essential. Based on the treatments you use to manage your symptoms, your dermatologist will provide you with specific guidelines to best protect your skin.