When Should an Adult Be Concerned About a Rash?

January 21, 2021 9:21 am Published by

Last week, tiny red spots suddenly showed up on your arm after some time spent outdoors. Should you simply apply an over-the-counter cream and move on, or do you need to have the rash checked out?

Well, that really depends. In many cases, rashes come and go quickly. They can occur for many different reasons, including coming in contact with substances in everyday life.

But in some cases, it’s a good idea to have a rash checked out by your primary care provider. How can you know when to seek medical care?

The American Academy of Dermatology offers a checklist of symptoms that indicate medical attention is needed:

  • The rash affects a large portion of the body. Normally, rashes are contained within a small surface area of the skin, so it’s worth having a rash checked out if it’s more invasive.
  • The rash is accompanied by other symptoms. This is especially true if you also have a fever. In fact, this should be considered a medical situation that needs to be seen quickly by a healthcare provider, since it could signal serious conditions such as scarlet fever, measles or shingles.
  • The rash comes on suddenly and spreads quickly. A quickly spreading rash can be a sign of an allergic reaction of some type, which prompt treatment can help mitigate. If you also experience difficulty breathing, seek emergency care.
  • The rash begins to blister. If the rash consists of blisters or begins to blister, turning into open sores, it could signal an allergic reaction or an adverse drug reaction. It’s especially important to seek medical attention if the blistery rash is around your eyes, on your genitals or around your mouth.
  • The rash is painful. This probably seems logical, but if a rash causes you pain, it’s worth having it checked out. Most rashes can be effectively treated with minor medical care.
  • The rash is emitting fluid, has a red streak, or is swelling or warm. These can all be signs of an infection, particularly if the fluid is green or yellow.

What to Do About an Itch

At some point or another, most of us have scratched an itch to the point that the skin becomes red and inflamed—almost rash-like.

If you’re affected by some minor skin irritation that causes an itch, try alleviating it with basic at-home care:

  • Apply a wet cloth or an ice pack to the affected area.
  • Take an oatmeal bath, which can help ease the itch of chickenpox, hives and even poison ivy.
  • Apply a moisturizer that’s free of fragrance and additives.
  • Try a cooling agent, like those containing calamine. For a double burst of relief, put the lotion/cream in the refrigerator before applying.

Need to have a rash checked out? Call your primary care provider, or use telemedicine to get a diagnosis from the comfort of home. To find a primary care provider, call (662) 664-5181 or visit care.mrhc.org/primary-care.


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This post was written by Magnolia Regional Health Center

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