Signs and Symptoms of Rashes

Skin rashes can occur anywhere on the body. They can be localized (i.e., develop on one area of the body) or widespread (i.e., occur all over the body). Widespread rashes are usually the result of a virus or an allergic reaction. Some rashes develop suddenly (e.g., allergic rashes), and some develop over time from repeated exposure (e.g., to chemicals or detergents).

Many rashes cause itchy, reddened bumps on the skin. Other symptoms, which vary in severity and depend on the cause for the rash, include the following:

  • Cracking
  • Crusting
  • Dryness
  • Flaking
  • Lesions (e.g., blisters, papules, pustules, wheals)
  • Scaling
  • Swelling
  • Warmth
  • Weeping (oozing)

If left untreated, areas of the skin affected by a rash are susceptible to secondary bacterial and viral infections. Stress, scratching, and exposure to heat or moisture often worsen simple skin rashes.

Additional symptoms that may indicate a serious condition include the following:

  • Areas of severe tenderness
  • Extreme swelling
  • Fever
  • Joint pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Soreness or tightness in the throat
  • Streaks of redness

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 02 Jan 2007

Last Modified: 27 Jul 2010