Acute Dermatitis

Acute dermatitis is an itchy inflammation of the skin that can appear suddenly and last for multiple days or weeks. Chronic rashes that are visible for longer than 6 months fall into a different category. These different eruptions are chronicled under their respective headings.

Eczematous Dermatitis

Rashes that look similar in nature to people with atopic dermatitis are commonly referred to as an eczematous dermatitis. They are usually red and swollen, often itchy, and may blister at times. The most common type is an irritant contact dermatitis, which often appears on areas of the body that are exposed to the elements, soaps, detergents ,and sometimes solvents. These rashes are commonly seen on the hands, but can appear anywhere on the body. With treatments, it is best to avoid harsh cleansers, toners or astringents.* We recommend a non-soap cleanser, such as Dove or Cetaphil, and consistent use of moisturizing lotions and creams.* The best products will contain ceramides.* We suggest Cerave cream and Cetphil Restoraderm lotion. In more extreme cases, creams and topical steroid ointments are useful.*

Allergic Contact Dermatitis

Allergic contact dermatitis to poison oak is most common in the Western United States. The dermatitis appears red, swollen, and can be very itchy. It will frequently appear in a linear distribution, suggesting a casual contact by body movement. This kind of dermatitis can blister. If you come into contact with poison oak resin, take a hot shower with soap to adequately wash it off your body.* Your clothes should also be washed in hot water with detergent to prevent further exposure.* Antihistamines with potent topical steroids, and potentially a 2-3 week course of prednisone, are an effective treatment plan.*

In some cases, individuals may experience a red papular or bumpy dermatitis that appears on the trunk and extremities as a result of a reaction to the drugs. This is more common in adult patients who are on multiple medications. Ace-inhibitors such as Lisinopril are the most common in our practice.* Children and adults with antibiotic reactions (especially from penicillins and sulfas) may appear in a similar way. We recommend withdrawal of any offending agents, and the use of moisturizers and topical steroids.*

Pityriasis Rosea

There are acute conditions that appear similar to psoriasis–a red, scaly rash. Pityriasis rosea is the most frequent form of this rash. It appears as an annular patch that looks similar to ringworm. It is often referred to as a herald patch. As time passes, more rashes can appear on the trunk and extremities. Pityriasis rosea will often spare sun-exposed areas. This condition can last 6-12 weeks, after which it will spontaneously resolve. This condition is virally mediated, given the time frame and absence of future recurrences. We recommend moisturizers, non-soap cleansers, and occasionally topical steroids prove to be helpful.* Outdoor sunlight therapy is often the most helpful therapeutic agent, but be careful not to burn the skin.* A sunburn can induce a remission.*


Infections often cause rashes and will commonly appear localized to exposed areas, the face, hands, and trunk being the most frequent. They are not itchy but they are painful.  The most common infection is impetigo. You may see it mostly on children’s faces, but it can affect anyone. This rash is often crusted and weepy, and will spread over multiple days. Staph aureus is the most common. While mild forms can be treated with topical agents such as mupirocin, most infections are easily treated with oral antibiotics that target staph aureus. For patients who have recently used a hot tub, a red, pussy eruption that often takes the form of pimples on the trunk can be seen. This is commonly referred to as hot tub dermatitis and results from pseudomonas aeruginosa. The best treatment is to gently cleanse the skin, and possibly an oral antibiotic.*


A nodular often painful process that occurs in areas of infections is often referred to as an abscess. They can appear anywhere on the body, but often they will be visible on the trunk. To clear these lesions, oral antibiotics and surgical drainage are often necessary.*

Fungal Infections

Lastly, scaly annular or circular eruptions that appear on the hands, groin, and feet are often caused by fungal skin infections. This infection frequently involves the web spaces in between the toes, and a discoloration of the toenails. The best treatments are antifungal agents that should be applied after a skin scraping that demonstrates the existence of fungal elements.*

In conclusion rashes can be caused in multiple ways. These are most common descriptions for the types of rashes that one can encounter on a daily basis. However, there are plenty of other conditions that are less common that also cause rashes. In these cases, you will need the expertise of a dermatologist for the correct diagnosis and treatment.

We treat all types of rashes at our Sacramento office.*  Call us today, or the form on the left side of this web-page to get a diagnosis and treatment.