Differentiating Between Rashes is Difficult For People

It is often difficult to differentiate between rashes. Some spots are itchy, some are flat, some are raised, some are different-colored, and some are located on specific parts of the body.

Rashes can often go away on their own or with simple over-the-counter creams, but sometimes, rashes can be indicative of more serious illnesses that need to be evaluated by a doctor. In order to understand the rash, and to identify whether or not medical care should be sought, here are some steps to help.

The 4 Steps for Differentiating Types of Rashes

  1. Determine what the rash looks like
  2. Determine where the rash is located
  3. Determine when the rash started
  4. Explore if the rash is associated with any other signs or symptoms

The 4 Steps Explained

Rashes can look very characteristically different from each other, depending on what is experienced. Are there distinct spots, or does it appear more flaky? Is it flat or is it raised? Are the spots small, or are they large? Rashes caused by everyday irritants, can appear as minor itchy bumps which go away after a few days. A mixture of flat and raised bumps that seem to be running into each other are characteristic of a maculopapular rash that may be something more serious such as measles or rubella. Because this rash may also be associated with other, non-threatening conditions, it is important to consider medical history, and consider reaching out to a doctor for evaluation. Rashes that appear to be fluid-filled, are called vesicular or pustular rashes. These blister-like rashes are often associated with heat rashes or allergic reactions, but they are also characteristic of chickenpox or other infectious diseases.

Rash location is also important to consider when trying to differentiate. Is the rash located in the folds of the skin, is it localized to one area of the body (such as the arm or one leg), or is it a generalized rash that is spread out all over the body? Rashes more localized to one area of the body may be more specific to allergic reactions, heat rashes, or insect bites. Generalized body rashes on the stomach, face, arms, and legs may be indicative of something more systemic. While diagnosis cannot be done based solely on this factor, this is important to consider writing down all signs and symptoms before reaching out to a medical provider.

Timing of when rashes start can help with potential diagnoses. Did the rash start shortly after contact with certain plants? Did it start after contact with an ill person with a similar rash? Was there contact with medical patients or children recently? Did the rash start after receiving a certain medical treatment or medication? Take a look at the calendar, and consider any significant events prior to when the rash developed. More serious illnesses or infectious diseases have specific time frames that will fit a certain criteria, and timing is important to consider and note when speaking with a medical doctor.

Finally, many rashes may be associated with certain signs and symptoms, which may be helpful with identifying whether or not medical care should be sought. For example, a measles rash often consists of collective flat and raised bumps that appear to be meshing together, however, people with measles also have a fever, runny nose, and spots in their mouth. Meningitis, a serious illness involving the brain and spinal cord, may also have a rash that does not go away when pressure is applied, but it also manifests in headaches, sensitivity to light, and head stiffness. Collecting all the information for related signs and symptoms are important to assist with potential diagnoses.

Now that the steps of differentiating between different rashes have been explained, use this guide to assist with questions that may be asked from a medical provider. This can potentially reduce the amount of time that it takes to identify a diagnosis, and can provide necessary relief faster.

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