CareNow® - February 12, 2020

Skin irritation: How to handle your rashes

Skin irritation and rashes are some of the most common medical conditions. Anyone can be susceptible to skin irritations like dry skin or hives.

Most rashes and other skin irritations are not serious conditions, but they can still impact your quality of life. Learn more about the causes and symptoms of skin irritations so you can enjoy the rest of your summer without fear of annoying itching and scratching!

Taking care of your skin is important and doing it the right way can help you keep your glow well into your senior years.

If you suspect you or a loved one has a rash that is more than just common irritation, a healthcare provider at your nearest CareNow® location can help relieve the discomfort.

What is skin irritation?

There are many causes for skin irritations, ranging from chaffing to allergic reactions. Most skin irritation is harmless in nature and can disappear on its own without professional medical treatment.

Skin irritation can be acute or chronic depending on the underlying causes.

All skin irritation comes from inflammation of your skin, despite the hundreds of potential causes of the condition. This inflammation usually manifests in the form of a rash.

Common causes of irritation include:

  • Contact Dermatitis
  • Dry skin
  • Hives
  • Eczema
  • Chickenpox

Common symptoms of skin irritation include:

  • Rash
  • Itchy skin
  • Scaly skin
  • Inflammation
  • Itching, burning sensation

We are going to explore many of these conditions and what you can do to scratch that itch without making it worse!


By far the most common form of skin irritation, contact dermatitis is usually caused by direct contact with an allergen or irritant. This irritation causes the skin to become inflamed. As a result, a rash forms on the affected area.

There are two primary types of dermatitis: allergic and irritant.

Common causes of allergic contact dermatitis include:

  • Metals such as nickel
  • Rubber or latex
  • Poison ivy, poison oak or other plants

Common causes of irritant contact dermatitis include:

  • Soaps or deodorants
  • Detergents
  • Household cleaners like bleach
  • Chaffing or other prolonged mechanical irritation

I think I have dermatitis - what do I do?

The good news is that contact dermatitis is very rarely serious. However, some forms of dermatitis can be an indicator of a more serious condition.  If you experience skin irritation, along with other more serious symptoms such as fever, consult a medical professional right away.

Most mild forms of dermatitis can be treated with over-the-counter medications, lotions or home remedies, especially for something like poison ivy. Long-term use of topical steroids is not recommended, as it is may discolor and cause thinning of the skin..

What causes dry skin?

Dry skin affects people of all ages, especially during the winter months. Dry skin occurs when your skin loses too much water or oil.

Some of the common causes of dry skin include:

  • A dry environment
  • Swimming in chlorine for prolonged periods of time
  • Taking hot showers for prolonged periods of time
  • Age


Symptoms of dry skin are:

  • Rough or scaly skin
  • Very itchy skin
  • Cracks in the skin
  • Gray or ashen skin
  • Chapped or cracked lips

How to treat dry skin

Dry skin may be annoying, but it rarely needs to be examined by a provider. Home remedies like lotions and taking care of your skin during the winter season usually clear up dry skin.

Here are five home remedies you may want to try:

While most cases of dry skin do not need to be treated by a provider, severe forms causing fissures and cracks on the skin surface may promote infections.  When these areas become red and swollen an infection has developed and will require a visit to a healthcare professional.


Hives, known as urticaria in the medical community, are essentially raised welts on your skin. These welts can come in all different shapes and sizes, from small and round to large and oblong.

Almost 20 percent of the world’s population will have hives at some point during their lifetime.

What causes hives?

Hives are normally caused by an allergic reaction but stress, infections and illnesses can also cause an outbreak.

Some common allergic causes of  hives include:

  • Pet dander
  • Foods
  • Medications
  • Insect stings
  • Latex
  • Plants

Non-allergic causes of hives include:

  • Viral infections
  • Mechanical contact (dermographia)

Symptoms of hives include:

  • Pink or red raised bumps on the skin
  • Blanching, where the skin turns white if pressure is applied
  • Stinging or achiness in the affected areas
  • Itchiness

I’ve got hives…Now what?

The good news is that hives will probably go away after a few days and does not require medical attention. The first thing you should do, however, is make sure the hives aren’t spreading to your throat or tongue, as this can cause difficulty breathing.

If you are having a hives outbreak and struggling to breathe, you need to go to the nearest ER for immediate medical attention.

In most cases of hives, you will not need prescription treatment. Home remedies, time and over-the-counter medications usually clear up your outbreak.

If you need some quick relief, try the following:

  • Taking an oatmeal bath to reduce irritation
  • Not touching the affected area
  • Taking over the counter antihistamines to reduce swelling and itching
  • Avoiding hot water

Seek medical attention if hives don’t go away after a week or if your symptoms worsen.

A healthcare provider can help you determine the cause of your hives and if necessary consider referral for allergy testing.


People commonly use ‘eczema’ to refer to the skin condition known as atopic dermatitis, which is a specific variation of skin irritation.  

This skin condition is commonly found in babies and children. Adults can still get eczema, but aren’t as susceptible due to increased tolerance to irritants.

Cases of eczema can be acute or chronic, depending on the underlying causes.

Common symptoms of eczema include:

  • Itching
  • Dry skin or a thickening or scaling of the skin
  • Paleness of the skin, especially around the mouth or elbows
  • Rash, with potential for crusting or oozing

The true cause of eczema is not completely understood. Individuals with a strong family history of the condition are more susceptible. Lifestyle changes may be necessary to combat and alleviate symptoms of eczema, such as using unscented or mild soaps and avoiding hot showers.

If medical treatment is necessary, you may expect one or all of the following:

  • Over the counter moisturizers and/or emollients
  • Prescription steroid creams
  • Antihistamines to reduce itching
  • Antibiotics applied directly to the skin to treat infection

In chronic cases, a dermatologist may recommend phototherapy treatment if skin care and medications are not effective. Phototherapy involves treating affected areas with ultraviolet light to reduce areas of inflammation.


Chickenpox is also known as the infectious disease, varicella virus. The virus spreads easily to others and is characterized by an itchy rash which can cover most of the body.

This very contagious virus commonly occurs in children under ten years old. Close contact with an infected person greatly increases the risk of exposure. The virus can lie dormant in the system for several weeks before symptoms appear.

Keep in mind that symptoms are much more severe in adults than in children. If you are experiencing the following symptoms, consult a medical professional:

  • Rash, beginning with small red spots which later become raised and round
  • Blisters which contain fluids
  • Rash which develops into clusters of blisters
  • Moderate fever
  • Headache
  • Cough, accompanied by a sore throat
  • Severe itching

After a medical assessment, your healthcare provider will recommend a specific course of action. Chickenpox is usually mild in children, so treatment may focus on relieving the symptoms until the virus is finished.

It is important to keep itching to a minimum during the rash and blister phase. Scratching can cause the blisters to break open and expose the fluids to your pores, which results in further infection.

To reduce itching, try the following:

  • Apply a wet compress to the affected areas
  • Use over-the-counter ointments or lotions
  • Take oral antihistamine medication to reduce inflammation

Aspirin is not recommended for children with a viral infection or other fever causing illnesses. Always consult your provider before giving your child aspirin. You may also be prescribed antiviral medication to reduce infection.

For those unvaccinated or never had chickenpox as a child, avoid close contact with anyone who has chickenpox to prevent infection.

The varicella vaccine is routine childhood immunization and recommended for most children. Adults can also be vaccinated if they did not have chickenpox as a child.

Skin irritation is normally only part of the story

Perhaps the most important thing to know about skin irritation is its connection to other medical conditions. Rashes and skin irritation are rarely causes for concern, but when combined with other symptoms, they could be indicators for serious conditions.

If you have concerns about your rash or other skin-related symptoms, it’s always a good idea to consult a medical professional, especially if your symptoms worsen.

One easy way to get checked out by a medical professional is to visit your nearest CareNow clinic. It’s a cheaper alternative to going to the emergency room and has more availability than your primary care provider or dermatologist.

Our clinics are open seven days a week for walk-in patients. You can minimize your wait time with our Web Check-In®.

Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.

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