When to See the Healthcare Provider When You Have a Skin Rash

Whenever you develop a skin rash on some part of your body, your first thoughts may be: Is this serious? Should I see a healthcare provider? The following four rules may help you make that decision.

How Frustrated You Are by the Rash

If a rash really bothers you, go see your healthcare provider—period. It doesn't matter whether it's a common skin problem, or whether other people tell you that it's no big deal. You're the one who has to live with your skin, so if you want to get professional care, do it.

Even easily treated rashes can cause an immense amount of physical discomfort if you don't know what to do about them.

Imagine not knowing that you have athlete's foot. You may be able to tolerate the itching and burning skin for a few days or weeks, but you will probably reach a point when it drives you crazy. The solution may be a simple over-the-counter skin cream, but if you don't know which cream to use, then the cream can't do you any good.

Rashes can also cause psychological stress and anxiety. If you're worrying or losing sleep over the condition, that's another good reason to make an appointment with your healthcare provider.

How Long You Have Had the Rash

Most of the time, a rash that has been present for a couple of days will go away on its own. Generally, the longer you've had a rash, the more likely it is that it won't get better without treatment. 

If you have a rash longer than a few days, you should get a medical diagnosis and treatment.

Previous Rashes

If you've had the same rash before, then you could have a recurrence of the same problem. Many people think that a rash that comes back wasn't diagnosed correctly In the first place However, many rashes aren't necessarily cured—they're just temporarily controlled, and they can recur.

For example, rashes such as acneeczema, atopic dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, hives, genital herpes, and rosacea can wax and wane, depending on many factors. Learn about any rash that you've been diagnosed with so you will know what to expect in the future.

You may be surprised to find out that you need to continue to use your treatment to keep your rash under control.

In rare cases, a rash can change over time and might require a different treatment. If your rash is not responding to the medications that have been helpful in the past, or if it seems to be worsening, tell your doctor.

Always call your healthcare provider if you're not sure whether to continue your treatment or not.

What the Rash Looks Like

Some rashes can be treated easily with over-the-counter treatment. If you have a rash that looks just like a picture of poison ivy, then there's a good chance that you have poison ivy.

But sometimes you can't find a picture or description that exactly matches your skin's appearance. Or your rash might resemble two or three different conditions. It's better to get a professional opinion and to start on the right treatment sooner rather than later.

When to See the Healthcare Provider

If your symptoms are mild and short-lived, then a healthcare provider's visit may not be necessary.

Signs You Need to See a Doctor for a Rash
 Verywell / Evan Polenghi

Make an appointment to see a healthcare provider if the rash is really bothering you physically or mentally, if it doesn't go away after a couple of days, or if it isn't the same one you had before. You can either see your general practitioner or a ​dermatologist (a doctor who specializes in treating the skin) to get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Warning signs to see a healthcare provider immediately include pain, rapid swelling, shortness of breath, bleeding, blisters, skin that is rapidly turning dusky or black, and large amounts of skin peeling.

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2 Sources
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  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hygiene-related diseases.

  2. National Institutes of Health. Red, itchy rash?