Is your rash contagious?

Rashes can look fairly gnarly, particularly if you have blisters that are oozing or sores that are weeping. With all that scary-looking skin, you might wonder if rashes are contagious. In truth, it really depends on the type of rash you have. Some rashes that look particularly bad, like severe cases of shingles and intertrigo, aren't contagious at all. But ringworm, which can sometimes just be a small, innocent-looking patch, is very contagious [source: Mayo Clinic]. Your physician will be able to tell you if you're contagious.

Skin Rash Treatment

With the number of possible causes, conditions and diseases out there, it seems almost inevitable that you'll one day find yourself with inflamed, unhappy skin. Whether you contract poison oak on a day hike, have a reaction to that new medication you're taking or you pick up ringworm while working at the local cat shelter, there's no need to worry that your skin woes will remain forever. There are many treatment options, even if your rash is chronic:

  • If you have a bacterial skin infection, you may be able to let it heal on its own, or you may need a doctor's attention. Some conditions, like intertrigo, can go away on their own if you practice good hygiene, keep the area dry and avoid tight clothing [source: Mayo Clinic]. But if you have a severe bacterial skin infection, you may need an antibiotic cream or other prescription medication [source: American Academy of Family Physicians].
  • Fungal infections are usually treated with antifungal medications. Over-the-counter antifungal creams are available, but if you have a particularly difficult or persistent fungus, you may need prescription oral antifungal medications [source: American Academy of Dermatology].
  • If you have a rash caused by a virus, the specific virus will determine the treatment. In general, when a virus is the cause, the symptoms of the rash are treated rather than the virus that causes it. For example, your doctor may suggest antihistamines or a topical anti-itch medication to help ease your itching [source: New Zealand Dermatological Society].

The bottom line is that although the skin does manage to protect itself quite well, there are hosts of potential invaders and irritants that can breach its defenses. If you have a rash, it's best to see your doctor so that he or she can identify the culprit, treat it and return your skin to good health.

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