Medically reviewed by Cynthia Cobb, DNP, APRN, WHNP-BC, FAANP — Written by Rachel Nall, MSN, CRNA — Updated on September 19, 2019

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You are watching: Abnormal redness of the entire skin surface


Why does my skin look red?

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

It’s not always a reason for concern, but skin redness can be irritating and uncomfortable. It might also be accompanied by other symptoms. Figuring out its underlying cause can help you treat your skin and keep it from happening again.


Many different conditions can skin redness. Here are 21 possible causes.

Warning: Graphic images ahead.

Diaper rash


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Rash located on areas that have contact with a diaperSkin looks red, wet, and irritatedWarm to the touchRead full article on diaper rash.

First-degree burn


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The mildest form of burn injury, it affects only the first layer of the skin.Painful, dry, red area turns white with pressure.Skin may peel, but ther is no blistering.Pain and redness will subside after a few days.Read full article on first-degree burns.

Allergic eczema


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May resemble a burnOften found on hands and forearmsSkin is itchy, red, scaly, or rawBlisters that weep, ooze, or become crustyRead full article on allergic eczema.

Rosacea


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Chronic skin disease that goes through cycles of fading and relapseRelapses may be triggered by spicy foods, alcoholic beverages, sunlight, stress, and the intestinal bacteria Helicobacter pyloriThere are four subtypes of rosacea encompassing a wide variety of symptomsCommon symptoms include facial flushing, raised, red bumps, facial redness, skin dryness, and skin sensitivityRead full article on rosacea.

Burns


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This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Burn severity is classified by both depth and sizeFirst-degree burns: minor swelling and dry, red, tender skin that turns white when pressure is appliedSecond-degree burns: very painful, clear, weeping blisters and skin that appears red or has variable, patchy colorationThird-degree burns: white or dark brown/tan in color, with leathery appearance and low or no sensitivity to touch

Read full article on burns.

Contact dermatitis


Appears hours to days after contact with an allergenRash has visible borders and appears where your skin touched the irritating substanceSkin is itchy, red, scaly, or rawBlisters that weep, ooze, or become crustyRead full article on contact dermatitis.

Chemical burn


This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

This occurs when your skin, mucous membranes, or eyes come into contact with a chemical irritant, such as a strong acid or a base.The concentration of the chemical, duration of contact, and method of contact will determine severity of symptoms and urgency of treatment.First aid treatments for chemical burns include removing the chemical that caused the burn (including removing any clothing or jewelry that has touched the chemical) and rinsing the skin under lukewarm, slow, running water for 10 to 20 minutes (and at least 20 minutes for chemical eye injuries).

Read full article on chemical burns.

Drug allergy


This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Mild, itchy, red rash may occur days to weeks after taking a drugSevere drug allergies can be life-threatening and symptoms include hives, racing heart, swelling, itching, and difficulty breathingOther symptoms include fever, stomach upset, and tiny purple or red dots on the skin

Read full article on drug allergies.

Cellulitis


This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Caused by bacteria or fungi entering through a crack or cut in the skinRed, painful, swollen skin with or without oozing that spreads quicklyHot and tender to the touchFever, chills, and red streaking from the rash might be a sign of serious infection requiring medical attention

Read full article on cellulitis.

Scarlet fever


Occurs at the same time as or right after a strep throat infectionRed skin rash all over the body (but not the hands and feet)Rash is made up of tiny bumps that make it feel like “sandpaper”Bright red tongueRead full article on scarlet fever.

Angioedema


This is a form of severe swelling beneath the skin’s surface.It may be accompanied by hives and itching.It’s caused by an allergic reaction to an allergen like food or medication.Additional symptoms may include stomach cramping and discolored patches or rash on the hands, arms, and feet.Read full article on angioedema.

Thrombophlebitis


This inflammation of a superficial vein is caused by a blood clot.It typically occurs in the legs.Symptoms include tenderness, warmth, redness, and visible engorgement along the vein.Read full article on thrombophlebitis.

Bone infection


A bone infection, also called osteomyelitis, occurs when bacteria or fungi invade a bone.Bones may get infected by migration of a bacteria or fungus infecting surrounding tissues or the blood stream, or by penetrating injury or surgery that exposes the bone.Symptoms include pain, redness, swelling, stiffness, and warmth in the infected body part.Fever and chills may also occur.Read full article on bone infection.

Osteosarcoma


This bone cancer typically develops in the shinbone (tibia) near the knee, the thighbone (femur) near the knee, or the upper arm bone (humerus) near the shoulder.It’s the most common type of bone cancer in children.Common signs include bone pain (in motion, at rest, or when lifting objects), bone fractures, swelling, redness, and limping.Read full article on osteosarcoma.

Sunburn


Superficial burn on the outermost layer of skinRedness, pain, and swellingDry, peeling skinMore severe, blistering burns may occur after extended periods of sun exposureRead full article on sunburns.

Skin infection


A skin infection is caused by a wide variety of infectious agents including bacteria, fungi, viruses. and parasites.Common symptoms include redness of the skin, tenderness, itching, and a rash.See a doctor if you have fever, chills, pus-filled blisters, skin breakdown, severe pain, or a skin infection that doesn’t improve or gets progressively worse.Read full article on skin infections.

Bites and stings


This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Redness or swelling at the site of the bite or stingItching and soreness at the site of the bitePain in the affected area or in the musclesHeat around the bite or sting

Read full article on bites and stings.

Heat rash


This irritating skin rash occurs due to a combination of heat, sweat, and friction.It’s caused by blockage of the sweat glands.Heat rash develops on body parts that rub together, such as between the inner thighs or under the arms.Small clear or white bumps filled with fluid appear on the surface of the skin.Itchy, hot or prickly red bumps on the skin are another symptom.Read full article on heat rash.

Psoriasis


Commonly located on the scalp, elbows, knees, and lower backMay be itchy or asymptomaticRead full article on psoriasis.

Ringworm


Circular-shaped scaly rashes with raised borderSkin in the middle of the ring appears clear and healthy, and the edges of the ring may spread outwardItchyRead full article on ringworm.

Shingles


Very painful rash that may burn, tingle, or itch, even if there are no blisters presentRash comprising clusters of fluid-filled blisters that break easily and weep fluidRash emerges in a linear stripe pattern that appears most commonly on the torso, but may occur on other parts of the body, including the faceRash may be accompanied by low fever, chills, headache, or fatigueRead full article on shingles.


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

warmth in your skinsores

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

lymph node inflammation

Skin redness can be a temporary, or acute, condition. It can also be a chronic condition that constantly reappears.


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

a burn that’s twice the size of your palmdifficulty breathingextreme painloss of consciousness

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

See a healthcare provider or dermatologist for other symptoms that aren’t considered a medical emergency. If you don’t already have a dermatologist, you can browse doctors in your area through the historicsweetsballroom.com FindCare tool.


Your healthcare provider will examine your skin redness. If your symptoms come and go, they’ll listen to your description of them. They’ll 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 skin care or cleaning products?Have you experienced this skin redness before?Were you around others who may have a similar rash?

These and other questions can help your healthcare provider 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 healthcare provider if your skin condition may be contagious and what steps you can take to prevent its spread. This can ensure that you don’t pass on the skin redness to someone else.


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.

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Other treatments for skin redness include:

cleansing the affected area with soap and water

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


Medically reviewed by Cynthia Cobb, DNP, APRN, WHNP-BC, FAANP — Written by Rachel Nall, MSN, CRNA — Updated on September 19, 2019