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If your skin breaks out in bumps or patches you may have a rash. These patches can look red on white skin and grey on black or brown skin.

If the rash appeared quickly and you do not feel well, you may have an infection.

If you have a rash but feel well, it is probably an allergic reaction to something. The most common type of allergic reaction is urticaria (hives).

It can also mean your skin has come into contact with something that has caused a reaction.

Urgent advice: Go to your GP or nearest emergency department if you have a rash and:

  • a severe headache
  • vomiting
  • high temperature
  • a stiff neck
  • sensitivity to light

These are signs of meningitis.

Meningitis and septicaemia in children and babies

Types of rashes

These can include hives, heat rashes or long term skin conditions such as psoriasis.


A hives rash can come in patches in many shapes and sizes.

A person's knee covered with lumps of different sizes on their skin.
Hives are raised, itchy bumps on your skin that appear like a rash.

Many things can trigger hives. These include:

Check if you have hives

Heat rash

A heat rash is uncomfortable, but usually harmless. It usually gets better on its own after a few days.

The symptoms of a heat rash are:

  • small, raised spots
  • an itchy, prickly feeling
  • mild swelling

The rash often looks red, but this may be less obvious on brown or black skin. It can appear anywhere on the body.

It can appear anywhere on the body and spread, but it cannot be passed on to other people.

White skin mostly covered with tiny red spots that are close together.
Heat rash appears as raised spots that are 2mm to 4mm across. Some spots may be filled with fluid.

Rashes in children

A rash on your child’s skin can be caused by a number of things.

These include:

Photos of rashes

Check your or your child's rash against these common rashes.

Rashes common in children

Some rashes are common in children. They include:

Slapped cheek syndrome

Child's face with bright red rash on white skin - redness and raised bumps on each cheek.
In slapped cheek syndrome, after 1 to 3 days, a bright red rash appears on both cheeks. Adults do not always get the rash.

Slapped cheek syndrome


Red spots on white skin that are set apart from each other and small in size.
Chickenpox starts with red spots. They become very itchy after about 12 hours.



A person's chest with the small red-brown spots of a measles rash
The measles rash appears around 2 to 4 days after the first symptoms.



Child's face from nose to chin with blisters and sores on the nose, lip, and between the lip and chin.
With impetigo, sores (non-bullous impetigo) or blisters (bullous impetigo) can start anywhere - but usually on exposed areas like your face and hands.



Baby's arm from elbow down with red marks on inside of elbow and wrist
Baby with eczema on their arm.


Skin conditions with a rash

Some skin conditions where you will have a rash include:


red, raised dots on white skin, that are clustered
The rash spreads and turns into tiny red spots.


Contact dermatitis

lots of small red dots on white skin
Contact dermatitis causes the skin to become itchy, blistered, dry or cracked.

Contact dermatitis

Pityriasis rosea

persons back covered with red rash on white skin
Pityriasis rosea causes a temporary rash of raised red scaly patches on the body.

Pityriasis rosea

Rashes which last for more than 2 weeks


arm below the elbow with red, scaly patches on white skin
Plaque psoriasis (psoriasis vulgaris)



Cheek and side of face covered in small red spots on white skin.
Acne causes spots, oily skin and sometimes skin that's hot or painful to touch



Redness on the cheek of a person with white skin.
1 of the first signs of rosacea is redness (blushing) across your nose, cheeks, forehead and chin that comes and goes. It may be harder to see on black or brown skin.



red dots and inflamed skin on the ankle of a person with white skin.
Eczema causes areas of skin to become itchy, dry, cracked, sore and red


Rashes caused by infections

If you feel ill and you have a rash, it is more likely that you have an infection.

Common infections with a rash include:


Chickenpox starts with red spots. They can appear anywhere on the body.

red spots on white skin that are set apart from each other

Chickenpox symptoms


The shingles rash appears as red blotches on your skin, on one side of your body only. A rash on both the left and right of your body is unlikely to be shingles.

chest and shoulder of person with red blotches on white skin, on one side of their body only

Shingles symptoms


The measles rash appears around 2 to 4 days after the first symptoms.

A person's chest with the small red-brown spots of a measles rash

Symptoms of measles

Hand, foot and mouth disease

Red spots on the hand of baby

Hand, foot and mouth disease symptoms

Scarlet fever

Red rash on white skin covering from neck, across to shoulders and down chest

Check if you have scarlet fever

Rashes caused by fungal infections

Some rashes are caused by fungal infections such as:

Pityriasis versicolor

white patches on brown skin
Pityriasis versicolor causes small patches of skin to become scaly and discoloured.

Pityriasis versicolor symptoms


circular rash on white skin with red rim to circle and creamy skin inside the circle
The main symptom of ringworm is a red or silver rash. The rash may be scaly, dry, swollen or itchy.

Symptoms of ringworm

Rashes caused by bacteria

Bacteria can also cause rashes such as:


Impetigo is a skin infection that is very contagious but not usually serious.

child's face with sores and blisters on the nose, lips and chin

Symptoms of impetigo


Cellulitis is a common bacterial skin infection that's treated with antibiotics. It can be serious if it's not treated.

two hands side by side, with the backs of the hands facing up. One hand is red and swollen and the other hand is not.

Symptoms of cellulitis

Treatment for rashes

Antibiotics do not help most rashes.

Hives are usually treated with antihistamine tablets. Ask your pharmacist for advice. You can also take paracetamol or ibuprofen if you have any pain.

Put on an emollient and wash with a non-fragranced and soap-free cleanser.

Treating itchy skin

Non-urgent advice: Go to your GP if:

  • you have a rash and do not feel well

They can check if an infection is causing the problem. Some infections caused by viruses may need treatment.

Page last reviewed: 3 March 2023
Next review due: 3 March 2026

This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.