Different Types of Itchy Skin Rashes

There are a number of different types of skin rashes that present to the allergist’s office. A good number of these represent an allergic process, while many other skin rashes are not caused by allergies. The following rashes are common to see in the allergy office. Depending on the type of skin rash, there are a number of different treatments available. Treatment may include the use of topical steroids, oral antihistamines, or topics anti-fungal creams. Avoidance of an allergic trigger can also be helpful to prevent symptom recurrence.

Atopic Dermatitis

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Atopic dermatitis
Atopic dermatitis.  Raimo Suhonen / DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

Atopic dermatitis, commonly referred to as eczema, can have different appearances depending on how long it has been present. For example, acute eczema can include blisters and vesicles containing fluid. Subacute eczema that has been present for days to weeks may appear dry and flaky. Chronic eczema that has been present for months to years can cause the skin to become thickened or leathery in appearance. This is called lichenification. Eczema is usually found on the flexural areas of the body, especially in the elbow folds and behind the knees.

Learn about the treatment for eczema.

Poison Oak

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Poison oak rash
Poison oak rash.  Darren415 / Getty Images 

Poison oak is a form of acute eczema, which most often appears as fluid-filled blisters and vesicles on the skin. Since poison oak is caused by the skin coming into contact with plants, the rash is classically in a linear pattern caused by the plant rubbing along with skin, such as when a person is hiking through the woods. Poison oak responds to treatment with topical steroids.


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Facial psoriasis
Facial psoriasis.  DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

Psoriasis appears as thick, silvery scales that are most commonly found over the joint surfaces and the scalp.

Dermatitis Herpetiformis

Dermatitis herpetiformis usually presents as small fluid-filled blisters over the joint surfaces, but can also be present on the back of the scalp and lower back region. This rash is often a result of gluten sensitivity, also called celiac sprue. Dermatitis herpetiformis is responsive to a gluten-free diet as well as treatment with dapsone.


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Tinea corporis
Ringworm/tinea corporis.  DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

Ringworm, or tinea corporis, appears as a flat rash that is usually red around the outer border with a whitish appearance in the center. The borders may have flaking or scaling present. Ringworm is due to a fungal infection of the skin and responds well to the use of topical anti-fungal medications, including over-the-counter clotrimazole.


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Folliculitis.  DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

Folliculitis is an infection of the hair follicles and appears as small pimples, especially over areas of the body where the hair is shaved, such as the lower legs in women or face in men. Since people are covered in hair follicles, the rash can occur in most places on the body. Folliculitis can be treated with anti-bacterial soaps including over-the-counter triclosan and chlorhexidine, as well as topical and oral antibiotics.


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Urticaria.  Raimo Suhonen / DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

Urticaria, or hives, is a raised, red, itchy bumps of various sizes and shapes. They are usually red around the edges and white in the center. Hives are caused by histamine release into the skin, which usually only lasts for a number of minutes to hours. Therefore, hives are one of the few rashes that come and go, or at least move around, quite quickly. Urticaria also goes away quite rapidly with the treatment of an oral antihistamine such as Zyrtec, Allegra or Claritin. 

Learn more about the causes and treatment of itching.

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