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What Causes an Itchy Rash?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Itchy rashes are irritating and annoying, and they sometimes occur without people knowing the causes. Often, a rash is identified by the types of behaviors a person has recently engaged in, or by checking for the presence of certain illnesses or infections, and appearance of the rash may help identify cause. Rashes can have bumps or scales, be flat or raised, and they may localized to a certain area or spread around the body. Their causes are numerous and it would be hard to make a full list, since an itchy rash can occur for so many reasons.

Some of the top rash causes include rashes that develop when the skin is sensitive or allergic to certain substances. Most are familiar with skin itch that occurs after extensive exposure to things like poison oak and poison ivy. Yet a substance doesn’t necessarily have to cause rashes in all people to provoke an irritation. Around the belly button, people may get a round or oval irritation that can be caused by nickel allergy, and exposure to it on metal belt buckles or the metal snaps on pants. Alternately, some people develop sensitivities to detergents or other chemicals and exposure to them can cause rash to develop all over the body, called contact dermatitis.

Other forms of a rash may develop when people ingest substances. An allergic reaction to medicines or even to some foods may result in rash or hives occurring. As a side effect, some medications cause rash, though this may or may not be considered as an allergic reaction.

Fungal infections may result in itching. These can occur on various parts of the body, including the feet, around the vagina, in the groin, or under the arms and the breasts. There are differing types of fungal infections including ringworm, which looks like a circle, and may occur on any part of the body. This usually doesn’t get better without treatment.

Some itchy rashes may not always have the same cause. People can develop hives under numerous circumstances, from allergy, stress, or for no determinable reason. These are bumps on the skin that may require some time to resolve, or that may resolve quickly without treatment.

There are rashes that develop on the skin and may last for a very long time. These include eczema, which occurs in patches, and may have numerous causes. It is normally chronic and needs to be treated for life. Conditions like psoriasis can result in a scaly rash on various parts of the body. This particular condition has new treatments that may help reduce presence of rash and itching.

Viral infections sometimes cause itchy rash. Chicken pox begins as blisters that occur the skin. When these pop, the rash itches until the red spots crust over and scab. Exposure to certain parasites like scabies, which are small mites that can live in the skin, can create a rash that spreads all over the body, too.

Due to the numerous causes of itchy rash, it’s important to try to identify its source. Sometimes this is easy to do. A walk in the woods and exposure to poison oak tends to mean a poison oak rash. Some people know when they’re going to get hives or realize they’ve eaten something that will cause them to have a rash reaction. With viral rashes or contact dermatitis of unknown cause, doctors may definitely want to view the rash, diagnose it, and treat it. Certainly something like chicken pox requires diagnosis so that exposure to others is minimized, rashes caused by fungal infection or parasite involvement tend to require treatment to improve, and chronic rashes may respond to treatment and give a person relief from skin damage and itch.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon343220 — On Jul 28, 2013

I broke out in a rash on my upper lip one day, followed by a rash on my neck 3 days later, and additionally had a rash inside my belly button after eating mango! I later discovered that the skin of mango has the same urushiol oil as poison ivy, which I am highly allergic to. My lip and neck have healed, but I am still battling my belly button and I am going on the fourth week with this mess.

By Eviemae — On May 14, 2011

One of the worst things in the world is to have worked your butt off in the yard all day to discover that you are now being rewarded with poison ivy!

That has got to be one of the most itchy, red rashes in all of the world!

And, it can be hard to get rid of. My son actually had it so bad one time, it was in his eyes. He had to go to the doctor for that one and get a shot of some sort.

For me, though, I’ve found that lightly dabbing a little bleach on the areas makes it disappear in no time. Now, I don’t mean to take a bath in the stuff. Just a little, teeny, tiny dab should be enough. Too much might hurt you.

By tlcJPC — On May 12, 2011

We had used the same laundry detergent for years, when my husband started to get this really red, itchy rash under his arms and in some other less than desirable areas.

It was very irritating to him, but we could not for the life of us figure out what it was that was causing all the mayhem.

He went to the doctor, who more less just told him that it was probably an allergy. Find the allergen, get rid of it, and get rid of the rash.

We changed soap. We changed shampoo. We changed his deodorant. He even quit wearing cologne.

Come to find out it was the detergent we had been using for so long. I don’t know if maybe the company changed an ingredient, or if his body just developed this allergy over time.

The doctor was right though. We found the allergen, got rid of it and now my hubby is rash free!

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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