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Signs your rash needs medical attention

Board-certified dermatologist’s tips

ROSEMONT, Ill. (Jan. 23, 2024) — Rashes take many forms, may spread across the body, and affect people of all ages. To the untrained eye, rashes may look alike, and while some are treatable with over-the-counter medications, other rashes can be a sign of a more serious condition.

“It is important to watch your symptoms closely at the onset of a new rash,” said Mallory Abate, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in Baton Rouge, La. “Making note of any changes or new developments are instrumental to determining the severity of the medical condition and if immediate assistance is needed.”

It’s easy for germs to enter a rash and cause an infection. Signs your rash is infected might include pus, yellow or golden crusts, pain, swelling, warmth, or an unpleasant smell. The skin around an infection might look red, purple, or brown, you might feel very hot or cold, have swollen lymph nodes, or a fever.

In recognition of National Healthy Skin Month this November, Dr. Abate and the AAD recommend people with rashes follow these tips to know when to seek medical attention:

  1. A rash over most of your body. 

  2. A rash that blisters or turns into open sores or raw skin.

  3. Fever or illness with a rash.

  4. A rash that spreads rapidly.

  5. A painful rash.

  6. A rash involving the eyes, lips, mouth, or genital skin.

If you have trouble breathing or swallowing, or your eyes or lips swell up, emergency medical care may be necessary and should be sought immediately.

“If you have a rash and your symptoms are not improving, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist,” Dr. Abate said.

These tips are demonstrated in “Signs your rash needs medical attention,” a video posted to the AAD website and YouTube channel. This video is part of the AAD’s “Your Dermatologist Knows” series, which offers tips people can use to properly care for their skin, hair, and nails.

To find a board-certified dermatologist in your area, visit aad.org/findaderm.

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Shelby Homiston, shomiston@aad.org

Rhys Saunders, rsaunders@aad.org

Media Relations, mediarelations@aad.org

More Information

Rash 101 in Adults: When to Seek Medical Treatment


AAD B-Roll Library

About the AAD

Headquartered in Rosemont, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 20,800 physicians worldwide, the AAD is committed to advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical, and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair, and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care because skin, hair, and nail conditions can have a serious impact on your health and well-being. For more information, contact the AAD at (888) 462-DERM (3376) or aad.org. Follow @AADskin on Facebook, TikTok, Pinterest and YouTube and @AADskin1 on Instagram.

Editor’s note: The AAD does not promote or endorse any products or services. This content is intended as editorial content and should not be embedded with any paid, sponsored or advertorial content as it could be perceived as an AAD endorsement.