When a Rash Requires a Trip To The ER

What Symptoms Indicate a Rash Needs Immediate Medical Help?

You may be tempted to put rashes in the same category as bruises or scrapped knees. That is, a minor, superficial wound that generally just needs some patience and maybe an at-home remedy like an ice pack or over-the-counter skin cream. 

For some rashes, this approach can indeed be effective and all that is required. However, other rashes need to be evaluated by a dermatologist, while some should be immediately addressed at The Emergency Center as they can be a sign that something more serious is going on. So how do you know?

Close-up of a person's hand showing a visible rash on the skin

Wide Range of Rashes

If you’ve ever spotted a rash while changing a diaper or after hiking through poison ivy, the reason for it is pretty obvious. But unlike bruises or scrapes, with many rashes, the cause is not always so clear. They also may be a one-time thing or come and go. 

Additionally, a rash can take many forms, looking and feeling different depending on the type:

  • Blotches
  • Blisters
  • Welts
  • Itchy
  • Dry
  • Pink or red
  • Uniform in shape or irregular

While rashes can be small and may only appear on one area of the skin, some can cover the entire body. It’s important to note the characteristics of the rash when deciding what to do about it. 

The Cause is The Concern

Although rashes aren’t typically life-threatening in and of themselves, that doesn’t mean they can’t be a medical emergency. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, that’s because many rashes appear as a result of a potentially serious underlying condition that needs to be addressed ASAP. Seek help at The Emergency Center if the rash: 

  • is all over the body and/or comes with a fever. This could indicate an allergic reaction or serious infection like measles, scarlet fever, shingles, or mono which can have long-term consequences if not cared for fast.
  • appears suddenly and spreads rapidly from one part of the body to another. A bad reaction to a medication or something else ingested may not only be behind this type of rash but can lead to other dangerous symptoms like trouble breathing.
  • contains open sores or begins to blister. Again, some type of allergic reaction could be the culprit, or it could be a sign that something else is wrong with the body that’s more than skin deep. 
  • affects the eyes, mouth, or genitals. Rashes that appear in areas that can impact the senses or gain easy entry inside the body can cause complications. 
  • causes pain. Rashes may be unsightly and cause minor discomfort or irritation, but they shouldn’t be painful. 
  • appears infected. A rash that oozes, becomes swollen or crusty or has a red streak may be infected. Rashes that are scratched because they are itchy are especially susceptible to infection. 

In addition, a rash that doesn’t go away within a few days should be evaluated by a medical professional.

At The Emergency Center, our team of caring doctors and clinicians can help uncover what’s triggering the rash, map a course of treatment, and even send you home with prescription medications to address the rash and its cause.

Enjoy life. We’ll be here for the bumps along the way. ™


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The Emergency Center

San Antonio
11320 Alamo Ranch Pkwy
San Antonio, TX 78253

Phone: 210-485-3644