Rash or Redness - Localized

Rash or Redness - Localized

Is this your symptom?

  • Rash or redness on one part of the body (localized or clustered)
  • Cause of rash is unknown
  • Includes:
  • Localized areas of redness or skin irritation
  • Rash may be smooth or slightly bumpy
  • Rash may look like small spots, large spots, or solid red

Some Basics...

  • Localized rashes that people may know are: athlete's foot, insect bites, and poison ivy. If one of these is the problem, use that Care Guide. If not, use this Care Guide.
  • The main cause of a new rash is often skin contact with some irritant.
  • The main cause of a localized rash that does not go away is often contact dermatitis. This is an allergic skin reaction.
  • Cellulitis is an infection of the skin with spreading redness. The skin is also painful, tender to touch, and warm. There may or may not be discharge. Antibiotic drugs are needed.

Common Causes

  • Acne
  • Athlete's foot
  • Cellulitis
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Eczema
  • Intertrigo
  • Jock itch
  • Poison ivy or poison oak

What is Contact Dermatitis?

Contact dermatitis is an allergic skin reaction that occurs after repeated contacts with the allergic substance. It most often appears as raised red spots in one area. Sometimes it becomes groupings of blisters. Where the rash is found may suggest its cause.

  • Poison ivy or oak: Often found on exposed skin like hands and forearms.
  • Nickel (metal): Often found on the neck from necklaces and earlobes from earrings. Found on the wrist from a watch or bracelet. Also found on the stomach from metal snaps on pants.
  • Tanning agents in leather: Often found on the feet from leather shoes. Also found on the hands after wearing leather gloves.
  • Preservatives in creams, sunscreens, shampoos: Rash will be found where the product was used.
  • Neomycin in antibiotic ointment: Rash will be found where the product was used.

What is Intertrigo?

  • Symptoms: Redness of the skin and moist areas between skin folds. Sometimes there may be mild burning, discomfort, or itching.
  • Location: It is often found under the breasts. In overweight people, it can happen in other places. It can be found where skin folds over and creates a moist pocket. This can be in places like where the stomach and upper thigh meet.
  • Risk Factors: Obesity, heat, humidity, sweating, tight clothing, and diabetes.
  • Complications: May become infected with yeast. A secondary bacterial infection of the skin can happen.
  • Treatment: Dry the moist area. Wear loose clothing or dry the area with a fan or hair dryer. Losing weight may help. Sometimes anti-fungal cream is helpful.

When to Call for Rash or Redness - Localized

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Purple or blood-colored spots or dots that are not from injury
  • Bright red area or red streak (but not sunburn)
  • Rash is very painful
  • Many small blisters grouped in one part of the body
  • Fever
  • You feel weak or very sick
  • You think you need to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Looks like a boil, infected sore, or other infected rash
  • Severe itching
  • Genital area rash
  • Suspected Lyme disease (bull's eye rash or tick bite in the past month)
  • Tender bumps in armpits
  • You think you need to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Rash lasts more than 7 days
  • Red, moist, irritated area between skin folds (or under larger breasts)
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Mild localized rash

Care Advice

Mild Localized Rash

  1. What You Should Know:
    • The main cause of a new rash is often skin contact with some irritant. The main cause of a localized rash that does not go away is often contact dermatitis. This is an allergic skin reaction.
    • You can treat minor localized rashes at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Avoid the Cause: Try to find the cause. The rash may be from irritants like a plant, chemicals, or fiberglass. A new makeup or jewelry can also cause contact dermatitis. A pet may carry the irritant in its fur. An example of this is poison ivy or poison oak.
  3. Avoid Soap: Wash the area once with soap to remove any irritants. Then avoid using soaps in this area. When needed, cleanse with warm water.
  4. Cold Pack for Itching:
    • Use a cold pack or ice wrapped in a wet cloth.
    • Put it on the itchy area for 20 minutes. Do this every 3 to 4 hours.
    • This may help decrease the itch.
  5. Hydrocortisone Cream for Itching: Put on 1% hydrocortisone cream 4 times a day. This will help the itching. Use it for 5 days.
    • Keep the cream in the fridge. It will feel better when used cold.
    • Sold over-the-counter (OTC) in the United States as 0.5% and 1% cream.
    • Sold OTC in Canada as 0.5% cream.
    • Caution: Do not use this cream on athlete's foot, jock itch, ringworm, or impetigo.
  6. Avoid Scratching: Try not to scratch the rash. Cut your fingernails short so you do not scratch.
  7. How It Is Spread: Adults with these rashes can go to work or school. They will not spread the rash.
  8. What to Expect: Most of these rashes go away in 2 to 3 days.
  9. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Rash spreads or becomes worse
    • Rash lasts more than 1 week

Care Advice for Pimples

  1. What You Should Know:
    • A pimple is a tiny surface infection without any redness.
    • Pimples can happen from acne or friction.
    • You can treat pimples at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Cleansing: Wash the infected area with warm water and an antibacterial soap. Do this 3 times a day.
  3. Antibiotic Ointment: Put an over-the-counter (OTC) antibiotic ointment on the infected area. Do this 3 times a day.
  4. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Skin gets red
    • Fever
    • More pimples

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.


Last Reviewed: 11/24/2017 1:30:12 AM
Last Updated: 5/7/2017 1:36:16 PM

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Ringworm Rash on Arm

Notice that the area is round and pink. It has a raised rough scaly border. The ring slowly increases in size. It is usually slightly itchy.

Ringworm Rash on Leg

Patch of ringworm on upper thigh that has been present for three weeks.

Erythema Migrans Rash

The majority of cases of Lyme disease start with a bull's eye rash ("erythema chronicum migrans") at the site of the tick bite. The rash can occur days to weeks (typically 7-10 days) after a tick bite.

Treatment with antibiotics is indicated if this rash appears.

It is thought that Lyme Disease can be prevented if the tick is removed within 24 hours of attachment.

Impetigo of Elbow

The photo shows an abrasion of elbow that has become infected with bacteria.

Shingles on Chest

The photo shows the typical rash of shingles (also called Herpes Zoster).

There are multiple small blisters grouped together in one area of body (i.e., dermatomal distribution or "band" or "stripe"). It is unilateral, that is, it is present on only one side of the body.

Shingles on Neck

The photo shows the typical rash of shingles (also called Herpes Zoster).

There are multiple small blisters grouped together in one area of body (i.e., dermatomal distribution or "band" or "stripe"). It is unilateral, that is, it is present on only one side of the body.