Allergic Rash

This is a condition in which the skin develops red bumps or welts that itch due to an allergic response.

This is a condition in which the skin develops red bumps or welts that itch due to an allergic response.

An allergic rash occurs when skin develops red bumps or welts that itch due to an allergic response to something a person has had contact with or eaten. An allergic rash can affect one small section of the body, many areas of the body, or even the entire body.

  • Hives (elevated, itchy, skin-colored or red welts) are one type of allergic rash. When hives occur around the face, especially the lips and eyes, the swelling is called angioedema.
  • It can often be very difficult, even for a trained healthcare provider, to decide whether a rash is due to an allergy, infection or some other cause.

Some common causes of an allergic rash include:

  • Plants (poison ivy or oak)
  • Pollen
  • Medications (penicillin, sulfa)
  • Insect bites and stings (mosquitoes, bees)
  • Foods (such as shellfish, milk, eggs, peanuts)
  • Animals (cats, dogs)
  • Metals (nickel)
  • Cosmetics and cleaning agents (soap, laundry detergent)
  • Latex (medical gloves, adhesive bandages)

A rash due to an allergic response may not happen the first time you are exposed to a substance. It can take several exposures before your body responds with an allergic rash and/or hives.

  • Once identified, the substance or item causing an allergic rash should be avoided or removed.
  • If a rash is caused by skin contact with a certain substance, treatment usually begins with washing the area with water. If you use soap, use a mild soap with no fragrance.
  • Avoid hot showers or baths.
  • Avoid scratching, as this can lead to infection and scarring.
  • Sometimes, over-the-counter medications (such as antihistamines) and bath soaks (such as oatmeal baths) may be recommended to decrease the itching. If your symptoms are severe, your healthcare provider may also prescribe a prescription medication or cream.
  • On some occasions, an allergic rash may spontaneously disappear without intervention.

Contact your healthcare provider if you have a rash that is not responding to home treatment or is getting worse. Make a list of items you have come in contact with in the days prior to noticing the rash. This may help identify potential causes.

  • If you are going to see a healthcare provider other than your primary care physician, bring a copy of your medical history (past illnesses, surgeries and hospitalizations).
  • Make a list of your medications (including over-the-counter).
  • Write down any questions, symptoms or concerns you want to talk about.

Here are some questions to ask your healthcare provider.

  • What is causing my rash and what treatment are you recommending? Are there any alternatives?
  • When might I start to see improvement in my symptoms?
  • What tests are you going to do? What is the reason for those tests? Will the test results change my treatment plan?
  • What are my follow-up plans and what symptoms should I report before my next appointment?

Make sure you understand your treatment plan, any possible alternatives, and what medications are recommended (including possible side effects).


Also known as:

Skin Rash
Skin Problems
Skin Breakout
Red Skin
Poison Sumac
Poison Oak
Poison Ivy
Painful Rash
Allergic Reaction
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