Rashes can be caused by many things, such as a new medication, exposure to something that irritates the skin, or an infection. In mild cases, the rash may go away on its own anyway, but when it becomes bothersome, you may not be able to wait it out. Fortunately, there are many over-the-counter options that can bring soothing relief to even the most stubborn and annoying rashes.
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Some rashes are just unsightly, while others may be unbearable and keep you up virtually all night scratching. If your rash itches or burns there are various products you can buy from your local pharmacy or grocery store to soothe your discomfort. There are many thick moisturizing creams and emollients, such as Eucerin, Aquaphilic or Aquaphoric that help the skin retain its moisture and minimize the itching that that accompanies some rashes. Taking an oatmeal bath may also soothe your rash, and the warm water may just relax you enough to help you drift off to restful sleep. A wide range of anti-itch lotions or cream, like calamine lotion, can also be purchased without a prescription.(see ref 1)
If your rash is more than just a little annoying, you may need more than superficial treatment. In many cases, you can help decrease the inflammation behind the rash by applying a topical corticosteroid cream or ointment, such as hydrocortisone (Cortaid, Cortizone-10, Itch-X Lotion). While the stronger variety requires a prescription, low-potency topical corticosteroids have been available over the counter for many years. Topical corticosteroid creams are stronger than other topical rash remedies, but fortunately, they are inexpensive and have few side effects. (See ref 2)
Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is widely used to help with itching of any sort. It is inexpensive and has relatively few side effects in most people, though it does make some people sleepy. As a matter of fact, some take this medication to help them sleep at night, even if they have don't have allergies or itching. If you have never taken diphenhydramine before, it's probably best to take your first dose at night, just in case it makes you sleepy too. (See ref 3)
When to Seek Medical Attention
If your rash doesn't respond to simple over-the-counter measures within a few days, it may be time to see our doctor. While most rashes are harmless, some rashes have the potential to be deadly. Warning signs include a rash that spreads far beyond the site where it first began, blisters, fever, and involvement of your mouth, palms or soles.If you noticed the rash soon after beginning a new medication, contact your doctor immediately. A drug rash may precede more ominous symptoms of a drug allergy. If your rash persists despite over-the-counter treatment, or gets progressively worse, seek medical attention.
- Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2014: Maxine A. Papadakis, et al
- Harrison's Manual of Medincie: Dan L. Longo, M.D., et al
- The Washington Manual of Outpatient Internal Medicine: Thomas M. De Fer, et al