4 common rashes and how to tell them apart!

I don’t know whether it is just me, but even the thought of a rash makes me want to scratch my skin. More often than not a skin rash is nothing to be worried about; however, it can cause great discomfort and distress. But one blotchy itchy mark can look the same as another blotch mark on the skin, and sadly they don’t come with nice helpful name badges that tell you which of the rashes you have. Rashes just aren’t that helpful! But there are some key signs that separate each rash and make it a lot easier to treat them.


Here is the king of all rashes and I am sure if you asked everyone you know there would be at least one person who has suffered at the hands of eczema. I myself have often been at the mercy of its itchy grip and I know far too well the distress and frustration it can cause. The most common type of eczema is atopic eczema, which is an inflammation of the skin, often starting in early childhood. Eczema likes to hit you in waves, flaring up every now and again when you aren’t expecting it.

So what does it look like?

- The rash comes in faded patches and is often red and inflamed.

- Eczema is itchy and if scratched too much it can become infected

- When infected, blisters or sore spots will form on the red patches. These will often begin to “weep” and will have a wet layer over the infected area.

- The skin will be a red patch that grows in size the more you itch it. Eczema is most commonly found in skin creases like elbows, armpits, wrists and the back of the knees. Although it can also form on the face in red blotchy patches.

- The texture is often rough, dry and scaly.


Sadly, the cause of eczema isn’t known and there has yet to be a cure found for it. However, there are many effective treatments that can help reduce and fight eczema. The best treatments for eczema are emollient creams and steroid ointment or tablets. Emollients help to reduce the water lost from the skin and can help soothe the stinging effect caused by aggravated eczema.

Irritated contact dermatitis

Eczema is a form of dermatitis, so other types of dermatitis hold the same qualities. Generally, dermatitis is placed in two categories. The first is dermatitis caused by problems in the body – this is where atopic eczema fits in. The other category is dermatitis caused by a substance from outside the body – this is where irritated contact dermatitis makes its appearance.

This type of dermatitis is a rash caused by the skin reacting with other substances that are either irritating or that have been on the skin for a long period of time. This is not a recurring rash and will often appear suddenly and in a red blotchy patch on the area the substance touched. If severe, it will cause blisters to form. In most cases it is found on the hands.

There are various things that can upset the skin and cause this rash. However, these are the main causes:

- Detergent – soaps, bleach and washing up liquid can irritate the skin

- Acid and alkalis – this will often be due to working with chemicals or cement

- Petrol and other oils

- Different types of plants, like hellebore and clematis.

- Water – if your skin is in water for too long, especially chlorine water, it can start to damage your skin’s layer.

Lichen planus rash

This rash is very itchy in nature and affects the mouth, genitals, nails and hair. The inflammation of the skin is unknown, but the signs of it are quite noticeable.

Signs of lichen planus

- Small red bumps form in a cluster on the skin

- They are flat and shiny

- They vary in size

- They will often develop white streaks on the top of the bumps

- These can be found in the mouth and tongue as well. This can cause ulcers to form

- They can sometimes cause baldness on the scalp.

You mostly don’t need treatment, as the symptoms are quite mild. However, taking antihistamine medicine can reduce itchiness. If it does get worse your doctor may give you a course of steroid cream or tablets, and even steroid mouthwash to get rid of ulcers.


This is another rash that often recurs numerous times with the most common form of it being chronic plaque psoriasis, although there are many other types of psoriasis. Unlike eczema, this will normally start appearing around the age of 15-30.

Signs of chronic plaque psoriasis

- Defined red patches on the skin that will have a clear border between the skin and the rash

- The patches will be pink and red with flaky white scales on top of them

- It will affect the elbows, knees, scalp and lower back.

- Scalp psoriasis – this will form on the scalp and look like severe dandruff

- Flexural psoriasis – unlike the chronic plaque type, this is a very smooth rash that isn’t patchy.


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