Rash 101: How to describe to your doctor

ER & First Aid

Rashes are rarely emergencies on their own. With the ability to email doctors directly and virtual office visits on the rise, it’s good to learn some rash basics so you can give your doctor the best information to work from.


Flat rashes are the same level as the normal skin around it. Types of flat rashes include:

  • Spots (individual, solid rash areas)
  • Lacy (rash area appears like lace, with areas of rash interwoven with areas of normal skin)
  • Blotches (flat areas that are not uniformly colored, like a flat welt that is part red and part skin-colored)


You can feel a raised rash just by running your fingers over the skin. The rash area is higher than the normal skin around it. Types of raised rashes include:

  • Bumps (some rashes start off as bumps then change into other raised types)
  • Pimply (tiny bumps with a white area in the middle that look like pimples)
  • Blisters (clear fluid filled bumps)
  • Pustule (pus-filled bumps)
  • Welts (bumps of any size that are part red and part skin-colored)


A type of welt where the rash area can come and go over a period of minutes or hours and are usually very itchy. Because these are signs of an allergic reaction, head to the emergency room if they occur with breathing problems, throat tightness or severe vomiting.


Either raised or flat rashes that cover a larger area of skin. You can have just one patch or many.


Rash areas that are raised and red on the outside, flat and possibly white on the inside.


Rash areas that are raised (even domed) but have a dimple in the raised area.

Dry, Flaky or Crusty

The top layer of skin over the rash area might appear dry, flaky or crusty on some types of flat or raised rashes.


Rashes that flare, meaning that their appearance or characteristics change when activated by some body process. Eczema is a type of flaring rash that appears flat, dry and white until it flares becoming raised, red and itchy.

Trunk & Other Body Area

The location of a rash is often important in diagnosis because many diseases cause rashes in specific body areas. The most notable are the

  • Trunk (chest, stomach and back)
  • Face only
  • A combination of hand, foot and mouth
  • Areas where the skin folds, like elbows, wrists, groin and between fingers or toes

Blanching (Or Do Not Blanch)

Most rashes are blanching rashes. This means when you press on them for a second or two, the red color goes away and the rash area appears white (or much lighter). Doctors often ask whether a rash blanches because some that do NOT blanch are dangerous (or not rashes at all).

Most rashes are not serious, but if there are any signs of a severe allergic reaction such as breathing problems or chest tightness, call 9-1-1 or head to the nearest emergency room.


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