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Rash ointments can be broken into a number of different types, depending on what they are designed for and their availability. Some are available over-the-counter, while others only by prescription; they may be antibacterial, antiinflammatory, or antifungal, or simply moisturizing. It is important to purchase the right ointment for a rash. Using the wrong product could make a rash worse or result in no change. Many drugstores carry a variety of ointments in their skincare aisles and pharmacies, and a pharmacist can help a customer select the right product for a given rash.
The most broad way to divide these ointments is by prescription versus over-the-counter availability. Prescription ointments can only be obtained after a doctor examines the patient and writes a prescription. They tend to be stronger, and they may be the only products available to treat certain types of rashes. Usually a dermatologist or general practitioner writes the prescription. Over-the-counter drugs can be purchased freely, without any need for a doctor's visit.
Within these two classes, rash ointment can be antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, or anti-fungal in nature, designed to address specific causes of rashes. Other ointments are designed to resolve symptoms and side effects such as itching, dry skin, and irritation. Some ointments combine mixtures of both, such as a moisturizing anti-inflammatory rash ointment for eczema. There are also products designed for specific classes of rashes like psoriasis ointment, diaper rash cream, and eczema rash ointment. Some of these are available by prescription only to ensure that they are used appropriately.
For a rash of unknown origins, a generic rash ointment can be highly effective. People should discontinue use if the rash spreads or does not improve over several days. If there is a history of rashes, using an ointment that was effective in the past may resolve the issue. People with chronic conditions that lead to rashes may opt to keep prescription products on hand to treat rashes quickly when they arise on the advice of their dermatologists.
For some rashes, a doctor's visit is strongly advised. Rashes that persist or start to spread are a problem, as are rashes that crack, bleed, and seep. If a rash is extremely painful or has a strong odor, these are both signs that it is time for a visit to the doctor. When seeking medical attention, it is helpful to bring in containers of any medications used at home so that the doctor has an idea of what has not worked in terms of treatment.