How to understand skin rashes & bumps

Written by dawna theo
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Skin rashes and bumps can be a signal that someone has an illness, a bug infestation or acne. Usually a rash is accompanied by other symptoms that you can use to identify what the cause is. Rashes and bumps can be bumpy, flat, small pinpricks, blistered or in a circular pattern. Rashes vary in colour but are usually red or pink. A few rashes have a white or yellow pustule centre. Rashes can be completely dry and flaky or wet and weepy. With a little bit of knowledge, you will be able to understand the differences so that you can treat the problem yourself or go to the doctor.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Zinc-based diaper-rash ointment
  • Doctor's diagnosis
  • Triple antibiotic ointment
  • Over-the-counter acne treatment

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  1. 1

    Recognise if your baby's diaper rash is normal or caused by a fungus. Diaper rash is common among infants. The skin on the buttocks and groin area is pink or red with flat lesions. Regular diaper rash will look dry and flaky, but if it is caused by a fungus, the rash will be shiny and red. Treat the rash with a zinc-based diaper rash ointment and take your baby to his doctor if the fungal rash does not go away.

  2. 2

    Recognise the difference between measles, chicken pox and roseola. All three are well known for their skin rashes and are considered childhood illnesses. Chicken pox starts as flat red spots, followed by small white blisters that form in the centre. The blisters turn from red to yellow, crust over and become very itchy. Measles start as small, red dots and then grow bigger and become patchy. Roseola usually infects children under the age of 2. It starts with a high fever, and then a pink rash appears over most of the body. A person with any of these three illnesses will usually have a fever, headache and cough a few days before the rash appears.

  3. 3

    Recognise when a regular staph infection turns into the dangerous methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus. Staph infections can start out as an impetigo rash, characterised by reddish, blistery bumps that turn light gold and weepy. Impetigo is caused by bacteria and can be treated with triple antibiotic ointment. Impetigo left untreated can turn into the MRSA virus. You should suspect MRSA if the rash gets larger or deeper, fills with pus, becomes hot or turns black. MRSA is a serious infection that can cause death if not treated immediately by a doctor.

  4. 4

    Recognise the difference between rashes caused by bugs and insects such as scabies, ringworm, bedbugs and ticks. Scabies symptoms may not show up for two to six weeks after exposure. The rash, which is raised with white or grey lines, is usually on the hands and wrist but can be anywhere on the body. Ringworm is a rash characterised by itchy, small, red, raised spots that are ring-shaped on the torso or the face. Bedbug bites are large, flat, itchy bumps. Tick bite rashes vary, but the symptoms can include high fever, nausea, vomiting, headache, muscle pain, lethargy, chills and lack of appetite. All of these rashes/bumps need to be treated by a doctor except for bug bites.

  5. 5

    Recognise the types of acne. Acne can occur anywhere on your upper torso, neck, arms and face. Acne comes in six types; whiteheads, blackheads, papules, pustules, nodules and cysts. Blackheads and whiteheads are small hard bumps with a black or white centre. Papules and pustules are filled with pus and ringed in red. Nodules are boils or large pus-filled bumps. Cysts are hard, red bumps with inflamed skin that is hot to the touch. Treat your acne with over-the-counter acne medicine except in the cases of nodules and cysts, which can leave scars on your face and should be treated by a doctor.

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