Skin Redness
Skin redness (erythema) is abnormal redness of the skin, often signaling a pathological condition, such as inflammation, infection, or sunburn....

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What Does Skin Redness Mean?

From a sunburn to an allergic reaction, there are many situations in which your skin can become red or irritated. It may be because extra blood rushes to the skin’s surface to fight off irritants and encourage healing. Skin redness can also come from exertion, such as after a heart-pounding exercise session. 

It’s not always cause for concern, but skin redness can be irritating and uncomfortable. Figuring out its underlying cause can help you treat your skin and keep it from happening again. 

What Are the Symptoms of Skin Redness?

The main symptom associated with skin redness is varying colors of redness on the skin. The redness can occur in varying degrees and on different portions of the body. Here are some examples of symptoms that you may have along with red skin:

  • blistering
  • bumps
  • burn
  • flushing
  • hives
  • itching
  • rash
  • skin warmth
  • sores
  • swelling

What Are the Causes of Skin Redness?

Causes of skin irritation can include irritants, the sun, and insect bites. Examples of skin conditions associated with skin redness include: 

  • atopic dermatitis
  • bites
  • cellulitis
  • contact dermatitis
  • diaper rash
  • eczema
  • heat rash
  • medication allergy
  • psoriasis
  • ringworm
  • rosacea
  • scarlet fever
  • shingles
  • skin burns
  • skin infections
  • sunburns

Skin redness can be an acute (temporary) condition. It can also be a chronic condition that constantly reappears. 

When Do I Seek Medical Help for Skin Redness?

You should get immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms associated with skin redness: 

  • a burn that is twice the size of your palm 
  • difficulty breathing
  • extreme pain
  • loss of consciousness 
  • the redness is near or on your eyes and is affecting your vision 

You should also get medical attention if you have an animal bite, even if you’ve had a tetanus shot. 

See your primary care doctor or dermatologist for other symptoms that are not considered a medical emergency. 

How Is Skin Redness Diagnosed?

Your doctor will examine your skin redness. If your symptoms come and go, they’ll listen to a description of them. Your doctor will ask you a few questions. These could include:

  • What activities were you engaging in before you noticed the skin redness? 
  • Are you taking any new medications or using any new skincare or cleaning products?
  • Do you have a family history of any skin conditions? 
  • Have you experienced this skin redness before? 
  • Were you around others who may have a similar rash? 

These and other questions can help your doctor figure out what may have caused your skin redness. 

Additional testing may include taking a skin sample or biopsy of the affected area, or allergy testing to determine if your skin reacts to certain irritants. 

Ask your doctor if your skin condition may be contagious and about steps you can take to prevent its spread. This can ensure that you do not pass on the skin redness to someone else. 

How Is Skin Redness Treated?

Treatments for skin redness depend on what’s causing it. Examples can include avoiding the irritant or allergen that caused your skin redness in the first place. 

  • Other treatments for skin redness can be:
  • cleansing the affected area with soap and water 
  • medications like antihistamines to minimize irritation
  • topical skincare applications like calamine lotion to reduce skin redness 

Keeping the affected area clean and dry can usually help reduce skin redness. If an infection is the cause of your skin redness, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to reduce the infection’s symptoms. 

Written by: Rachel Nall, RN, BSN
Edited by:
Medically Reviewed by: George Krucik, MD, MBA
Published: May 8, 2015
Published By: Healthline Networks, Inc.
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