When to Visit the ER for a Rash
In many cases, a rash—or skin irritation—does not require emergency care. Common, non-emergency causes may include minor allergic reactions to plants (such as poison ivy and poison oak); allergic reactions to soaps, detergents or shampoos; reactions to heat or cold; and reactions to stress or embarrassment. When rashes occur for these reasons, they generally respond to home care.
However, some rashes can indicate a more serious problem. See below for guidance on when to seek emergency care for a rash.
If You Have These Symptoms, You May Need Emergency Care
Seek ER treatment if the rash is accompanied by any of the following:
- Joint pain
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness/swelling in the throat
- Areas of tenderness
- Streaks of red
- Skin peeling away or blisters in the mouth
- Abnormal bleeding or bruises under the rash
Reactions to Medication
If you think your rash may be a reaction to medication, stop taking the medication and call your doctor immediately. Do not continue taking the medication until you’ve seen your doctor.
If the Rash Doesn’t Go Away, Call Your Doctor
If the rash is recurring or persistent, it may indicate a skin condition (such as eczema or psoriasis) or an ongoing allergic reaction. You may not need to go to the ER, but you should make an appointment with your primary care physician to seek medical treatment.