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Rash 101 in adults: When to seek medical treatment

Rash 101: When to seek medical treatment

Although most rashes are not life-threatening, some can be a sign of a more serious condition. Dermatologists say you need medical treatment for rashes with the features in this video.

Signs your rash needs medical attention

When you see a new rash on your or your family’s skin, at first, it might look like any other rash and seem easily treatable at home. However, looks can be deceiving. Although most rashes are not life-threatening, some rashes can be a sign of a more serious condition.

Board-certified dermatologists say rashes with these features need 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.

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.

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.

A rash can take days or even weeks to heal. If you are concerned about a rash, partner with the skin expert, a board-certified dermatologist, for the proper diagnosis and treatment.

Related AAD resources

You’re never too young or old to see a dermatologist.

Learn why no one understands your skin better than a board-certified dermatologist.

What is a dermatologist?

Written by:
Brooke Schleehauf

Reviewed by:
Roopal Vashi Kundu, MD, FAAD
William Warren Kwan, MD, FAAD
Laurel Geraghty, MD, FAAD
Ata Moshiri, MD, MPH, FAAD
Darrell S. Rigel, MD, FAAD
Sanna Ronkainen, MD, FAAD
Desmond Shipp, MD, FAAD

Last updated: 1/22/24