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Rash symptoms: Treat them or leave them alone?

Skin irritants are everywhere. They can be natural like poison ivy or man-made like fiberglass. Kids more than anyone else seem to get into things that result in rashes. But how do you know when a rash is serious and when it’s just an itchy inconvenience?

When in doubt it’s always important to seek advice from a professional. Service providers like PlushCare now offer urgent care in San Diego and other large cities via the phone for these types of scenarios. If you’re unsure whether a rash needs medical attention, you can talk with a healthcare provider to get their professional opinion.

Before calling or visiting an urgent care facility, you can assess the situation at home by looking for the following signs that a rash is affecting more than the skin.

Signs that a rash needs medical attention

Psoriasis on elbows. Isolated on white

According to the American Academy of Emergency Medicine, 5-8 percent of emergency department visits are related to dermatologic problems. Most rashes aren’t life-threatening. However, some conditions can be fatal if they aren’t treated quickly. Typically when this is the case, the rash is a primary symptom of something far more serious.

The points below can help you gauge whether a rash warrants medical attention. If there’s any question about the severity of the condition, it’s always recommended that people are on the side of caution and seek care. When a child is the one affected, extra precautions should always be taken.

The corresponding symptoms

Young beautiful woman scratching her self. Isolated on white

Common problems like the chickenpox come with itchy skin and telltale spots all over the body. However, one of the more serious symptoms to keep an eye on is fever. If your child has a rash paired with a fever, there’s a possibility that they’re battling an infection. Pain is another symptom that needs to be carefully monitored. Anytime a child feels pain, that’s the body’s way of indicating there’s a problem that needs attention.

The look and location of the rash

Forearm showing Capillaritis

The location and the extent of the rash are two key indicators of its severity. All-over rashes can be a sign of an allergic reaction or infection such as scarlet fever. Any rash that affects more than 10 percent of the body needs medical attention. If the rash is blistering, it’s also cause of concern because this can be a symptom of an infection, allergic reaction or internal problem.

Another issue is that a relatively benign rash can become a health concern if the skin gets infected. Children shouldn’t scratch their itchy skin because this can spread the rash and also cause abrasions that lead to infections. Signs revealing that an infection has set in include swelling, green or yellow puss, pain, crusting, red streaks, and warmth or warm sensation.

How the rash is responding

dermatologist

Is the rash getting better or worse with time? If the answer is worse, you probably want to get in to see a healthcare professional right away. Most rashes should begin clearing up within a few days. If it’s been more than several days with no change, you may need to see a dermatologist to identify the cause and cure.

Another sign of bigger problems is how quickly the rash spreads. A rash that comes on suddenly and spreads fast is an indicator of an allergy. This can become life threatening, which means children with aggressive rashes should always be taken to the ER right away.

The source of the rash

frightened girl child hands protected from the impact of violenc

When children get rashes, it can be near impossible to know the source. However, if you do know the cause (such as a bee sting), it can help you determine how critical the situation is. What your child was doing at the time can also point toward the source. For instance, if you know that they were at school when the rash showed up, this information can help rule out things like poison oak and poison ivy.

The presence of medications

Woman holding pills

Is your child taking any medications? Skin rashes are a common sign of an allergic reaction to medication. If your child is on a medication, it’s best to cover your bases and take them to an urgent care center even if the problem doesn’t appear severe.

Pediatricians note that rashes are one of the most common medical issues among children. While they do happen all the time, rashes can be toxic in rare cases and may be an outward symptom of a serious infection. If you notice any of the warning signs mentioned above, call or visit an urgent care provider immediately.

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