Rash (Exanthema) – Causes, Treatment

Rash (exanthema)

Rash comes in many forms and types. If they occur suddenly, the physician speaks of an exanthema. This can have numerous causes, take on different manifestations and occur in different parts of the body. The therapy depends on the cause.

What is a rash?

Exanthema is an acute rash that can occur on a limited area of the body or spread throughout the body. The rash can spread slowly across the body or migrate from one part of the body to another. In most cases, the rash appears as red spots on the skin, but other manifestations are also possible.

Physicians use the term efflorescences to describe the individual skin lesions and distinguish between primary and secondary efflorescences. Primary efflorescences are the skin changes that occur first, including spots, nodules, blisters or wheals. If the rash changes over time, it is called secondary efflorescences, which include dandruffulcers, plaques and scars. In addition, depending on the cause, symptoms such as itchingpain and fever may occur.


The causes of exanthema are manifold and require the distinction of three types of exanthema. The first is infectious exanthema caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses, fungi or parasites. These include liceherpes zosteror simplex and lichens.

The second form is exanthema associated with systemic internal diseases. This includes lupus erythematosus, a rare chronic inflammatory connective tissue disease.

The third form of exanthema occurs with sexually transmitted and childhood diseases or allergies. With allergies, contact or drug rashes occur, which are often associated with other symptoms. Typical childhood diseases are measlesrubellascarlet fever and chickenpox.

Rarely, the immune deficiency in an HIV infection is the cause.

Diseases with this symptom

Diagnosis & course

In the case of exanthema, the person concerned should consult a doctor quickly to ensure the rapid initiation of appropriate therapy. The right place to go is a dermatologist, but a general practitioner or paediatrician can also help.

In the case of the detailed anamnesis, the doctor asks about the time and body part of the first occurrence, previous illnesses, medication intake and accompanying symptoms such as itching, fevernausea or cold signs. Also important is the question of whether the patient had contact with sick persons.

Often the localization of the rash gives important clues to the cause. Thus, viral exanthema often begin in the head area and spread from there over the body. Rash on the abdomen, back or chest is an indication of a drug reaction.

In the following detailed examination of the rash, the doctor uses aids such as a magnifying magnifier or a spatula. Blood tests, allergy tests and swabs can also be used to confirm the diagnosis.


Rash can cause a variety of complications. First, it can lead to a bacterial secondary infection, in which other skin areas are also affected by the rash. Pigmentation disorders or bleeding often occur, chronic rash causes scars and sensory disturbances (paresthesia) on the affected areas. Skin rash as a result of a cold allergy can lead to circulatory shock in severe cases.

Occurring as a result of shingles, skin rash is no less problematic: zoster viruses spread to other skin areas and possibly also to internal organs and external organs such as ears and eyes. If the organs of vision and hearing are affected, blindness and loss of hearing are threatened. So the complications always depend on the original trigger of the rash. An can contribute to the fact that the pustules and redness spread faster and the rash intensifies overall.

This is accompanied by knots or blisters, which also visually deviate from the original rash. In the treatment itself, the drugs used, in the case of rash usually ointments or the like, can lead to an intensification of the symptoms. If an allergy is the cause, depending on the type and severity of the allergy, various accompanying symptoms such as shortness of breath, severe pain, inner restlessness and, in severe cases, organ failure can occur.

When to go to the doctor?

Rash caused by an intolerance to a detergent or cream often disappears on its own within a few days – if this is not the case, a doctor should be consulted. If the rash occurs very suddenly or its cause is unclear, it is advisable not to wait so long, but to ask a for advice as soon as possible.

The same applies if children are affected or the rash is accompanied by swelling, pain or severe itching. Concomitant symptoms such as fever, difficulty swallowing or shortness of breath should also be taken as an opportunity to have the skin examined immediately by a doctor. Often skin changes also occur in spurts or the rashes change over time in shape, size or color.

The clarification by a physician is also strongly recommended here. In the case of skin diseases, the dermatologist is the most important contact person. Alternatively, it is possible to go to the . If necessary, he will issue a referral to the dermatologist.

Treatment & Therapy

With rapid treatment, the symptoms of exanthema usually subside quickly. The treatment of contact agent rash is simple: avoiding the allergen will relieve the rash. In addition, soothing ointments or creams can be used.

Depending on the severity and after weighing the advantages and disadvantages, the drug rash is also treated by discontinuation of the allergen. Discontinuation can be problematic when taking several medications at the same time, then the triggering drug must be identified together with the doctor. Taking glucocorticoids or supports healing.

Children’s diseases are treated symptomatically. Medications to relieve itching are given in a supportive manner until the rash subsides at the end of the disease.

If skin diseases are identified as the cause, special therapy is necessary. Possible are local treatment with salicylic acid, the intake of vitamin D and cortisone preparations or . Patients should not start treatment on their own, as over-the-counter antidotes could additionally irritate the skin. Therapy should only be carried out according to a doctor’s prescription.

Outlook & Forecast

What a patient can expect after a skin rash depends on what caused it. Viral diseases are often responsible for an exanthema. If it is one of the common childhood diseases, the rash usually spreads very quickly over the entire body. Itchy, often watery blisters form, but leave no scars unless the patient scratches them.

The disease is usually accompanied by fever, tiredness and weakness and is over after about 14 days. Bacterial infections that accompany rashes, such as scarlet fever, often have a similar course, but can be Treated very well with antibiotics .

If the rash is caused by a Skin Fungus , it often affects other parts of the body as well. The armpits and the anal and genital regions are particularly affected. The patient is usually referred to a Dermatologist , who treats the infected areas with Antifungal drugs . Skin fungi must be treated quickly and consistently so that they do not become chronic.

Allergic reactions usually subside as soon as contact with the trigger is stopped. However, avoiding allergens almost always entails a change in the patient’s lifestyle.


When it comes to preventive measures, a distinction must be made between the different forms of exanthema. Contact and drug eruptions can only be prevented if the risk of disease and the reaction can be anticipated. While good hygiene and avoiding contact with those affected can reduce the risk of infectious skin rashes and Stis , there is no 100% protection against childhood illnesses.

↳ More information: Home remedies for rash

What you can do yourself

Various measures will help relieve the rash. cool compress can provide short-term relief, particularly for an itchy rash. Ice packs are also beneficial, although they should not be placed directly on the skin. Special cooling gels from the pharmacy are also recommended.

Rash can be made worse by constant or severe scratching. Pathogens can penetrate the scratched skin and cause infections. Therefore, people with a rash should avoid scratching themselves at all costs. If you can’t stand the itching at all, you should gently tap, rub or pinch. Short-cut fingernails prevent scratching damage to the skin. Soft cotton gloves can also be worn at night to prevent unconscious scratching.

People with a rash should not take hot showers or baths. Hot showers or baths put a strain on the diseased skin. Instead, those affected should wash with lukewarm or cool water and only clean their skin with pH neutral Lotions. Fragrance -free aloe vera gel, for example, is well suited . A bath in a saline solution is also helpful. One kilo of sea salt comes with 50 liters of water.

Other home remedies for rashes include washing with cold Chamomile Tea , compresses with cold yoghurt, creams containing urea or rubs with olive , Sunflower or Lavender Oil . Freshly ground Coriander leaves or a paste made of water and healing earth can also be placed on skin rashes.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.