Skin Rashes

Skin Rashes

There are many different types of skin rashes and many different causes of skin rashes. Although most skin rashes are harmless, some do need treatment (which may be tablets, creams or ointments) from your doctor or pharmacist. Some rashes (especially dark red or purple rashes that don't fade with pressure) may even need urgent medical treatment as they can be associated with meningitis and blood infection (septicaemia).

When to see your doctor

  • The rash doesn't quickly disappear.
  • You feel unwell.
  • The rash does not fade with pressure (the best way to test this is to press a glass gently against the rash to see if it fades).
  • You are not sure what has caused the rash or have any other concerns

Types and causes of skin rashes:   

  • Red (erythema) but not scaly- can be caused by an infection or allergic reaction.
  • Red (erythema) and scaly- can be caused by inflammation of the skin.  
  • Macules (Flat abnormally coloured areas of skin) can be due to an infection or allergic reaction. If a macule is dark red or purple and does not fade when you put pressure on it, you need to see a doctor urgently. It could be a sign of meningitis or blood infection (septicaemia).
  • Papules (Solid raised areas which are up to half a centimetre across) can be caused by warts or insect bites.
  • Purpura and petechiae - These are dark red or purple and don't fade with pressure. You need to see a doctor urgently because there may be a serious cause that needs urgent treatment, such as meningococcal infection.
  • Nodules (Solid raised areas which are more than half a centimetre across) these may be caused by a cyst, wart or even skin cancer. You should see your doctor.
  • Blisters (swellings of the skin containing fluid) – caused by skin inflammation or infection.
  • Pustules (blister containing pus) this can be due to an infection or skin reaction.


Moles are small, coloured spots on the skin. Most people have them and they're usually nothing to worry about unless they change size, shape or colour.  If you have noticed changes in a mole you should attend your GP for review

Changes to look out for in moles include:

  • Changes in shape or looks uneven
  • Changes in colour, gets darker or has more than 2 colours
  • Starts itching, flaking, crusting or bleeding
  • Gets larger or more raised from the skin

More information

Skin rashes


All about moles