How to Relieve a Rash

Skin rashes have many causes, and permanent rash relief means getting rid of the underlying cause. Relieving the symptoms of itching, redness, scales and patches, all associated with the generalized term "rash," can be accomplished in many ways. A rash can be the result of bacterial of fungal infection, poison ivy, allergy to medications, food, eczema or ringworm. Ant bites, bee stings, shingles and chickenpox can also cause rashes. How to relieve a rash might depend on whether it's in one spot, or generalized. Local and systemic treatments can help relieve the discomfort. For a rash that persists, get a doctor's exam and a diagnosis.

Woman scratching her arm. (Image: Tharakorn/iStock/Getty Images)

Step 1

Try non-prescription creams and ointments. Because most rashes resolve on their own and aren't usually serious, over-the-counter creams that include diphenhydramine (Benadryl), cortisone and topical treatments with camphor can help with itching. If the rash is widespread, oral medication is needed. If your rash is painful, check with your doctor about using a cream with Lidocaine that can numb the skin and provide pain relief. If the rash is from a fungus or bacteria, you'll need an antibiotic ointment or antifungal ointment. If the rash is mild, non-prescription medication might do the trick.

Step 2

Take oral medication for a rash that occurs all over the body. Medications can cause allergy that manifests as hives or itching bumps on the face, neck arms, legs and trunk. ome reactions can be severe. For mild itching and rashes without other symptoms, try antihistamines such as diphenhydramine, loratidine (Claritin), Zyrtec and chlortrimeton.

Step 3

Apply tea tree oil to relieve your rash. The oil comes from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia plant. The oil has antimicrobial, antiseptic and anti-fungal properties that may help. Do not use it on the mucous membranes, and do not take tea tree oil by mouth. Nor should it be used on children.

Step 4

Apply colloidal oatmeal to a rash. Lotions made from colloidal oatmeal can relieve a rash. A study published in October 2007 in Clinical and Experimental Dermatology showed that colloidal oatmeal has anti-inflammatory effects. The remedy has been used for years to alleviate itching. Lotions in the drug store contain colloidal oatmeal. You can also buy oatmeal bath products. Or, to make a homemade oatmeal bath, says to put 2 cups oatmeal in a food processor on the highest setting until the oatmeal feels like powder. Pour it into a medium mixing bowl. Then combine with 2 cups cornstarch and hand mix well.

Step 5

Try cimetadine (Tagamet) or ranitidine (Zantac). Both medications, commonly used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and peptic ulcer, can also be used for rash relief and are sold over the counter. H2 blockers relieve rashes because they block the release of histamines (H2), produced in the body in response to allergy.


Severe allergic reactions can cause a condition known as Stevens-Johnson syndrome. It can follow a generalized rash, and is a very serious condition that causes the outer layer (epidermis) of the skin to die and then slough. It can also occur in response to infection. The condition starts with a purple, blistered rash and is a medical emergency that requires hospital treatment. Facial swelling, tongue swelling and difficulty in breathing associated with any rash should be treated at the hospital. Other serious rashes that should not be self-treated include Pemphigus vulgaris, toxic epidermal necrolysis and toxic shock syndrome, making it important to speak with your health care provider about the best way to relieve a rash.

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