Management of rashes – general hints and tips

A skin rash, also known as dermatitis, is a skin condition with symptoms of irritation, swelling or puffiness of the skin.

A rash is a general term to describe an abnormal change in the skin’s colour or texture. The rash itself is not the specific diagnosis.

There are many conditions associated with skin rash non-infectious and infectious rashes. As this is an adult minor illness course we shall not be covering childhood eczema this is included in the paediatric minor illness course.

It is important to know that most simple rashes will improve with proper skin care and avoidance of allergens or irritants.

Gentle cleansing with hypoallergenic soap, leaving the affected area exposed to air, application of calamine lotion or over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams can soothe many rashes until they subside in a day or two.

Treatment for more complex to severe rashes can be categorised into two kinds: infectious and non-infectious rashes. This section is a general guide. It is important to consider your local formulary too.

Most non-infectious rashes are easily treated with:

  • Cortisone creams to relieve itching
  • Lubrication and skin care lotions to prevent dryness
  • Topical steroids to control the rashes
  • Antihistamine medication to control symptoms and lessen itching
  • Antibiotics for rashes that have developed infection
  • Avoidance of the rash-causing drug or substance
  • In severe cases, oral steroids to clear the rash

The list below are treatments for infectious rashes caused by fungus, virus and bacteria, any or a combination of the following may be used:

  • Topical and oral anti-fungal medications such as clotrimazole or fluconazole
  • Oral or intravenous anti-viral medications such as famciclovir, acyclovir, and valacyclovir
  • Topical or oral antibiotics or anti-bacterial medications such as penicillin and cephalosporin
  • Vaccination to prevent infections such as chickenpox and shingles

The treatment prescribed depends on the underlying cause and the severity of the rash.

Whilst working with your mentor and consulting with people who present with rashes it may be useful to return to this page for treatment options.