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Red Itchy Rash: The Skinny on Dermatitis

Published: May 24th, 2012

Category: Student Health Care Center Blog

doctor and nurseMost of you have had a rash before whether from poison ivy, chickenpox, or an allergy. But what is a rash exactly? And, what can you do about it?

Our skin is a barrier full of immune response cells. These cells keep us protected from viruses, bacteria, and other threats. When the cells detect a threat they respond by an inflammation reaction. This inflammation is medically known as dermatitis but more commonly called a rash! There are different types of rashes and they have different types of treatments. Some are treated with an ointment that you would put directly on the skin and others are due to a whole body illness and can only be treated with medication. A common symptom with these infections is itching and many rashes are red, painful, and irritated. Some clear up quickly but others can last awhile.

Common Types:                     

Eczema is a common and is a dry, red, itchy rash. People with this have to moisturize their skin frequently and are more prone to skin infections. Symptoms can flare up in the summer time because of heat and activities that leave your skin un-moisturized.

Skin allergy dermatitis is a red, itchy rash that can sometimes produces small bumps or blisters. This occurs when your skin comes into contact with an allergen. Come skin allergies include poison ivy/poison oak, nickel (earrings), soaps, creams, and pets. If you come into contact with these, especially poison ivy/poison oak, it is best to wash your hands and the area contacted with soap and water. Many of these are harmless but a doctor may prescribe topical ointment to put on the area to reduce itching and redness.

When Should I see a Doctor?

Rashes are caused by many different things so before you put an over the counter cream on it, make sure you know where the rash came from. You should call your doctor if:

  • Your rash is so uncomfortable or painful it interferes with daily activities or sleep
  • The rash is on your face
  • Your rash looks worrisome or seems infected
  • You break out in a rash after taking a new medication
  • Your rash lasts for several days

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