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Rashes and skin conditions (teenagers and adults)

If you are worried about a rash, you should phone NHS 111.  

Meningitis

In some cases, a rash can be a symptom of meningitis. In teenagers and adults, symptoms include:

  • a fever, with cold hands and feet
  • vomiting
  • drowsiness and difficulty waking up
  • confusion and irritability
  • severe muscle pain
  • pale, blotchy skin, and a distinctive rash (although not everyone will have this)  
  • a severe headache
  • stiff neck
  • sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • convulsion or seizures

    Call 111 immediately if you have any of these symptoms.



    Eczema

    Eczema is a condition that causes the skin to become itchy, red, dry and cracked. It is a long-term, or chronic, condition.

    Atopic eczema commonly occurs in areas with folds of skin, such as:

    • behind the knees
    • the inside of the elbows
    • on the side of the neck
    • around the eyes and ears

    Atopic eczema can vary in severity and most people are only mildly affected. Severe symptoms include cracked, sore and bleeding skin.

    Although there is no cure for atopic eczema, treatments can ease the symptoms.

    Medications used to treat atopic eczema most commonly include:

    • emollients – (moisturising treatments) used all the time for dry skin
    • topical corticosteroids (often referred to as steroid creams) – used to reduce swelling and redness during flare-ups

    Your GP will prescribe emollients for dry skin and the weakest effective topical corticosteroid. Different strengths are needed for different parts of the body.

    Find out more about treating atopic eczema



    Scabies

    Scabies is a contagious skin condition caused by tiny mites that burrow into the skin.

    The main symptom of scabies is intense itching that's worse at night. It also causes a skin rash on areas where the mites have burrowed.

    See your GP immediately if you have scabies and you haven't had a previous infection. Delaying treatment places other people at risk.

    As other more serious skin conditions can sometimes cause similar symptoms to the symptoms of scabies, your GP will need to rule these out.

    If you have scabies, all members of your household will also need to be treated regardless of whether or not they have any symptoms. This is because it's highly likely that scabies will have been transmitted through close bodily contact.

    To reduce the risk of reinfection, avoid having sex and other forms of prolonged close bodily contact, such as holding hands, until both you and your partner have completed the full course of treatment.

    Lotions and creams

    Lotions and creams are commonly used to treat scabies. Your GP, pharmacist or nurse will be able to advise you about which treatment to use.

    Symptoms

    The scabies rash consists of tiny red spots. Scratching the rash may cause crusty sores to develop.

    Burrow marks can be found anywhere on the body. They're short (1cm or less), wavy, silver-coloured lines on the skin, with a black dot at one end that can be seen with a magnifying glass.

    In adults, burrow marks often appear in the following areas:

    • the folds of skin between fingers and toes
    • the palms of the hands
    • the soles and sides of the feet 
    • the wrists
    • the elbows
    • around the nipples (in women)
    • around the genital area (in men) 

    The rash usually affects the whole body, apart from the head. The following areas can be particularly affected:

    • the underarm area
    • around the waist
    • the inside of the elbow
    • the lower buttocks
    • the lower legs
    • the soles of the feet
    • the knees
    • the shoulder blades
    • the female genital area
    • Men usually have one or more very itchy, lumpy, 3 to 10mm spots on the skin of the genitals
    • the groin
    • around the ankles

    Scabies mites leave small red blotches and silver-coloured lines on the skin. These marks are caused by the mites burrowing into the skin.



    Psoriasis

    Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes red, flaky, crusty patches of skin covered with silvery scales.

    These patches normally appear on your elbows, knees, scalp and lower back but can appear anywhere on your body. Most people are only affected in small patches. In some cases, the patches can be itchy or sore.

    The severity of psoriasis varies greatly from person to person. For some people, it is just a minor irritation, for others it has a major impact on their quality of life.

    Psoriasis is a long-lasting (chronic) disease that usually involves periods when you have no symptoms or mild symptoms, followed by periods when symptoms are more severe.

    When to seek medical advice

    You should see your GP if you think you may have psoriasis. They can often diagnose the condition based on the appearance of your skin.

    Further tests are usually only necessary if the diagnosis is uncertain, in which case you may be referred to a specialist in skin conditions called a dermatologist.



    Warts and verrucas

    Warts are small lumps that often develop on the skin of the hands and feet.

    Warts vary in appearance and may develop singly or in clusters. Some are more likely to affect particular areas of the body. For example, verrucas are warts that usually develop on the soles of the feet.

    Warts are non-cancerous, but can resemble certain cancers. Most people will have warts at some point in their life.

    Warts aren't considered very contagious, but they can be caught by close skin-to-skin contact. The infection can also be transmitted indirectly from contaminated objects or surfaces, such as the area surrounding a swimming pool.

    You are more likely to get infected if your skin is wet or damaged. After you become infected, it can take weeks or even months for a wart or verruca to appear.

    Treating warts

    Most warts are harmless and clear up without treatment. However, treatment for warts such as creams and freeze sprays are available from most pharmacies and you should seek advice from your pharmacist in the first instance.

    The length of time it takes a wart to disappear will vary from person to person. It may take up to two years for the viral infection to leave your system and for the wart to disappear.

    You might decide to treat your wart if it is painful, or in an area that is causing discomfort or embarrassment.

    Common methods of treatment include:

    • salicylic acid
    • cryotherapy (freezing the skin cells)
    • duct tape
    • chemical treatments

    Treatment for warts is not always completely effective, and a wart will sometimes return following treatment. Surgery is not usually recommended for warts.

    When to see your GP

    Most types of warts are easy to identify because they have a distinctive appearance. You should always see your GP if you have a growth on your skin you are unable to identify or are worried about.

    Your GP will be able to tell if it's a wart simply by looking at it. Where it is on your body and how it affects surrounding skin will also be taken into consideration.

    You should visit your GP if you have a wart that:

    • bleeds
    • changes in appearance
    • spreads
    • causes you significant pain, distress or embarrassment


     If you are worried about a rash, you should phone NHS 111.  

    Meningitis

    In some cases, a rash can be a symptom of meningitis. In teenagers and adults, symptoms include:

    • a fever, with cold hands and feet
    • vomiting
    • drowsiness and difficulty waking up
    • confusion and irritability
    • severe muscle pain
    • pale, blotchy skin, and a distinctive rash (although not everyone will have this)  
    • a severe headache
    • stiff neck
    • sensitivity to light (photophobia)
    • convulsion or seizures

    Call 111 immediately if you have any of these symptoms.

    Eczema

    Eczema is a condition that causes the skin to become itchy, red, dry and cracked. It is a long-term, or chronic, condition.

    Atopic eczema commonly occurs in areas with folds of skin, such as:

    • behind the knees
    • the inside of the elbows
    • on the side of the neck
    • around the eyes and ears

    Atopic eczema can vary in severity and most people are only mildly affected. Severe symptoms include cracked, sore and bleeding skin.

    Although there is no cure for atopic eczema, treatments can ease the symptoms.

    Medications used to treat atopic eczema most commonly include:

    • emollients – (moisturising treatments) used all the time for dry skin
    • topical corticosteroids (often referred to as steroid creams) – used to reduce swelling and redness during flare-ups

    Your GP will prescribe emollients for dry skin and the weakest effective topical corticosteroid. Different strengths are needed for different parts of the body.

    Find out more about treating atopic eczema. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Eczema-(atopic)/Pages/Treatment.aspx

     

    Scabies

    Scabies is a contagious skin condition caused by tiny mites that burrow into the skin.

    The main symptom of scabies is intense itching that's worse at night. It also causes a skin rash on areas where the mites have burrowed.

    See your GP immediately if you have scabies and you haven't had a previous infection. Delaying treatment places other people at risk.

    As other more serious skin conditions can sometimes cause similar symptoms to the symptoms of scabies, your GP will need to rule these out.

    If you have scabies, all members of your household will also need to be treated regardless of whether or not they have any symptoms. This is because it's highly likely that scabies will have been transmitted through close bodily contact.

    To reduce the risk of reinfection, avoid having sex and other forms of prolonged close bodily contact, such as holding hands, until both you and your partner have completed the full course of treatment.

    Lotions and creams

    Lotions and creams are commonly used to treat scabies. Your GP, pharmacist or nurse will be able to advise you about which treatment to use.

    Symptoms

    The scabies rash consists of tiny red spots. Scratching the rash may cause crusty sores to develop.

    Burrow marks can be found anywhere on the body. They're short (1cm or less), wavy, silver-coloured lines on the skin, with a black dot at one end that can be seen with a magnifying glass.

    In adults, burrow marks often appear in the following areas:

    • the folds of skin between fingers and toes
    • the palms of the hands
    • the soles and sides of the feet 
    • the wrists
    • the elbows
    • around the nipples (in women)
    • around the genital area (in men) 

    The rash usually affects the whole body, apart from the head. The following areas can be particularly affected:

    • the underarm area
    • around the waist
    • the inside of the elbow
    • the lower buttocks
    • the lower legs
    • the soles of the feet
    • the knees
    • the shoulder blades
    • the female genital area
    • Men usually have one or more very itchy, lumpy, 3 to 10mm spots on the skin of the genitals
    • the groin
    • around the ankles

    Scabies mites leave small red blotches and silver-coloured lines on the skin. These marks are caused by the mites burrowing into the skin.

    Psoriasis

    Psoriasis is a skin condition that causes red, flaky, crusty patches of skin covered with silvery scales.

    These patches normally appear on your elbows, knees, scalp and lower back but can appear anywhere on your body. Most people are only affected in small patches. In some cases, the patches can be itchy or sore.

    The severity of psoriasis varies greatly from person to person. For some people, it is just a minor irritation, for others it has a major impact on their quality of life.

    Psoriasis is a long-lasting (chronic) disease that usually involves periods when you have no symptoms or mild symptoms, followed by periods when symptoms are more severe.

    When to seek medical advice

    You should see your GP if you think you may have psoriasis. They can often diagnose the condition based on the appearance of your skin.

    Further tests are usually only necessary if the diagnosis is uncertain, in which case you may be referred to a specialist in skin conditions called a dermatologist.

    Warts and verrucas

    Warts are small lumps that often develop on the skin of the hands and feet.

    Warts vary in appearance and may develop singly or in clusters. Some are more likely to affect particular areas of the body. For example, verrucas are warts that usually develop on the soles of the feet.

    Warts are non-cancerous, but can resemble certain cancers. Most people will have warts at some point in their life.

    Warts aren't considered very contagious, but they can be caught by close skin-to-skin contact. The infection can also be transmitted indirectly from contaminated objects or surfaces, such as the area surrounding a swimming pool.

    You are more likely to get infected if your skin is wet or damaged. After you become infected, it can take weeks or even months for a wart or verruca to appear.

    Treating warts

    Most warts are harmless and clear up without treatment. However, treatment for warts such as creams and freeze sprays are available from most pharmacies and you should seek advice from your pharmacist in the first instance.

    The length of time it takes a wart to disappear will vary from person to person. It may take up to two years for the viral infection to leave your system and for the wart to disappear.

    You might decide to treat your wart if it is painful, or in an area that is causing discomfort or embarrassment.

    Common methods of treatment include:

    • salicylic acid
    • cryotherapy (freezing the skin cells)
    • duct tape
    • chemical treatments

    Treatment for warts is not always completely effective, and a wart will sometimes return following treatment. Surgery is not usually recommended for warts.

    When to see your GP

    Most types of warts are easy to identify because they have a distinctive appearance. You should always see your GP if you have a growth on your skin you are unable to identify or are worried about.

    Your GP will be able to tell if it's a wart simply by looking at it. Where it is on your body and how it affects surrounding skin will also be taken into consideration.

    You should visit your GP if you have a wart that:

    • bleeds
    • changes in appearance
    • spreads
    • causes you significant pain, distress or embarrassment

    Need medical help fast?

    Call 111 when you need medical help fast but it's not a 999 emergency. NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Calls are free from landlines and mobile phones.

    Life-threatening emergency?

    If the illness or injury is life-threatening, don't hesitate. Call 999 straight away.

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