How to Identify a Skin Rash

Common Rashes

While rashes themselves are not unusual, some rashes are more common than others are, including the following:

  • Dermatitis: There are several types of dermatitis, an inflammation of the skin. Atopic dermatitis is a reoccurring condition, so you'll likely know already if you have this type of rash. Your skin will be itchy and inflamed, particularly in folds of skin like the elbows, knees and neck. Contact dermatitis can present as itchy red patches from an irritating source (irritant contact dermatitis) or bumps and blisters from an allergen (allergic contact dermatitis).Poison ivy and poison oak are examples of allergic contact dermatitis [source: Mayo Clinic]. With irritant dermatitis if the exposure is strong -- say to a harsh soap or chemical -- you can get a rash immediately [source: American Academy of Dermatology].
  • Shingles: If you've ever had the chicken pox, then you could get shingles. Once you get over chicken pox, the virus stays in your body and can become active later in life, resulting in shingles. This rash not only gives you blisters, but it also affects the nerves, causing you pain. You usually recover in three to five weeks, although you may still experience pain after the rash is gone [source: National Institute on Aging].
  • Pityriasis rosea: Also known as the Christmas tree rash, pityriasis rosea usually starts in one spot and then sweeps outward, sort of like the aforementioned tree. Unfortunately, scaly, itchy rashes are the only gifts associated with this Christmas tree [source: Mayo Clinic].

Even though they may feel like they're hanging on forever, particularly if they're itchy or uncomfortable, all of these rashes tend to be short-lived. But not all rashes are that accommodating, so read on to find out about rashes that hang around or recur.