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A rash is a sign or symptom of a condition that causes irritation in the skin, and there are many things that can cause them to appear. Some rashes can be caused by direct contact with an irritant like poison ivy or a personal care product like a soap, moisturizer or detergent. Other rashes can be caused by allergies to foods or medicines, And still, others can be a sign or symptom of an underlying disease like Lyme disease, lupus, or shingles, or a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection. Many allergic rashes are relatively minor and clear up within a few hours or a day of exposure; rashes that persist or recur can be associated with more serious underlying issues and should be evaluated by a dermatologist as soon as possible. In addition to their red appearance, rashes can be accompanied by raised bumps or hives, blisters, and itching.
Some rashes, like the rash caused by athlete’s foot, ringworm, impetigo or another skin infection, can be passed from one person to another or contracted from having contact with a surface that’s been contaminated. Allergic rashes and rashes caused by systemic diseases typically are not contagious, although some underlying diseases that cause rashes may be contagious.
Treatment for any rash depends on what’s causing the rash to occur in the first place. The first step in treatment is to have the rash carefully evaluated by a dermatologist. Treating a rash - especially one that persists or recurs - with an over-the-counter remedy isn’t a good idea since the rash could be a sign of a serious medical condition that requires prompt medical care. During the office exam, the rash will be closely examined and the patient’s medical history and symptoms will be reviewed. Some rashes can be diagnosed right away, while others may require a biopsy or skin sample for further evaluation in a lab, and blood tests may also be ordered. Once the specific cause is determined, treatment may include topical or oral medications to relieve symptoms or treatments aimed at addressing an underlying infection or disease.