Why Is My Rash Hot to the Touch? What to Know

Medically Reviewed By Joan Paul, MD, MPH, DTMH

A rash that is hot to the touch often results from infection, such as chickenpox, infectious mono, and cellulitis. Apart from infection, other possible causes include eczema and autoimmune conditions such as lupus. Many conditions can cause a rash that feels warm or hot to the touch.

One common cause is infection. Infections can start in the skin or other body systems, eventually spreading and causing a rash. However, other conditions can also cause rashes.

Read on to learn about possible causes, symptoms, and treatments of a rash that feels hot to the touch.

Eczema

A collage of the sun and someone applying ointment to their arm.
Asya Molochkova/Stocksy United

Eczema is a noninfectious skin condition that can cause a dry, itchy, or painful rash. Eczema triggers include:

  • already having dry skin
  • contact with irritants, such as allergens or irritating chemicals
  • extreme or irritating environmental conditions, such as very dry weather
  • stress
  • hormonal changes

Treatment

To treat eczema, your doctor may recommend:

  • avoiding known triggers
  • over-the-counter (OTC) ointments
  • prescription medications such as steroid creams

See more about eczema identification, including pictures, types, and symptoms.

Cutaneous lupus erythematosus

Cutaneous lupus erythematosus (LE) is an autoimmune condition. It occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks skin cells, causing inflammation.

Symptoms may vary depending on the type, but can include:

  • itchy rash
  • developing a rash after sun exposure
  • ring-shaped rashes that sometimes overlap
  • raised or inflamed skin
  • skin discoloration

Some people may go on to experience systemic lupus erythematosus symptoms. These symptoms affect other body areas, and include Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source :

Treatment

Treatment approaches for LE may include:

  • sun protection
  • topical corticosteroids
  • antimalarial medications, such as hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil)

Read more about cutaneous LE, including causes and treatments.

Cellulitis 

Cellulitis is a common Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source bacterial infection of the skin. It may cause symptoms such as:

  • skin discoloration, including redness, darkening, or flushing
  • pitted skin that resembles the texture of an orange peel
  • blisters
  • swelling
  • pain
  • fever or chills

Group A Streptococcus bacteria typically Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source cause cellulitis. Bacteria may enter the skin through wounds or broken skin and then cause infection.

Treatment

Without treatment, the area of affected skin may get bigger as the infection spreads. Treatment for cellulitis can include oral or injected antibiotics.

See more about cellulitis, including its causes, appearance, and treatment.

Infectious mononucleosis

Infectious mononucleosis (mono) is a viral infection that usually results from infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). EBV spreads via contact with bodily fluids containing the virus, such as saliva or blood.

Alongside a rash that feels warm, symptoms can include Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source :

Treatment

Treatment for mono can include:

  • staying hydrated
  • resting
  • asking your doctor or a pharmacist about OTC pain relief medications
  • avoiding injury or strenuous activity, such as contact sports, to reduce the risk of spleen rupture, as mono may cause the spleen to enlarge

Learn more about the symptoms, transmission, and treatment of mono.

Fifth disease

Fifth disease, erythema infectiosum or slapped cheek syndrome, is a viral infection common in children. It is less common in adults.

Fifth disease typically causes a discolored rash on the face. It can also cause fever, sore throat, and headache.

Treatment

Many cases go away on their own after a few weeks. However, acetaminophen (Tylenol) may help manage headaches. Always check with a doctor or pharmacist before giving medications to a child, even if the medications are available over the counter.

Learn more about the symptoms, causes, and treatment of fifth disease.

Impetigo

Impetigo is a contagious Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source bacterial skin infection. People with impetigo may experience:

  • a rash that has crusty, golden brown patches that may get bigger and spread 
  • itchy or painful rash
  • skin discoloration
  • blistering 

Treatment

Treatment options for impetigo can include antibacterial ointments or, for severe cases, oral antibiotics.

Read more about impetigo, including its diagnosis, transmission, and treatment.

Scarlet fever

Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection with group A Streptococcus. It causes Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source a rash of rough, discolored bumps. Other symptoms include:

Treatment

Antibiotics can help treat the infection.

Learn more about the symptoms, causes, and treatment of scarlet fever.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease

As per its name, hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is a viral infection that typically Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source affects the hands, feet, and mouth. However, it sometimes affects other areas, such as the genitals and buttocks.

Symptoms of HFMD include:

  • skin rash
  • blisters or sores of the skin or mouth
  • sore throat or mouth
  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • lethargy

Treatment

Treatment for HFMD includes acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). Aspirin is not safe for children or teenagers.

Chickenpox 

Chickenpox is a contagious infection caused by Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source the varicella-zoster virus. It causes an itchy, blister-like rash of small bumps that can spread over the entire body. Other symptoms can include:

Treatment

Treatment and remedies for chickenpox include:

  • staying hydrated with fluids
  • for severe cases, antiviral medications
  • asking a pharmacist for recommendations on OTC products, such as:
    • cooling gels
    • antihistamines
    • pain relief medications

See more about chickenpox, including symptoms, pictures, and treatment.

When to see a doctor

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), most rashes are not life threatening. In other cases, rashes can result from serious conditions, such as infection. These require prompt medical attention.

Contact a doctor as soon as possible for a rash that feels warm to the touch or shows other symptoms of infection.

Promptly contact a doctor or call 911 for any of the following symptoms:

  • a rash that covers a large area or gets bigger in size
  • a rash that appears suddenly
  • blistering
  • severe pain
  • other signs of infection, such as:
    • swelling
    • crusting
    • fluids oozing from a rash
    • red or discolored streaks on the skin
    • fever

Also, talk with a doctor promptly for skin symptoms that persist, go away and come back, or appear with other symptoms.

Diagnosis

To diagnose the cause of a rash, your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. Your doctor will examine your skin. Tell them if you have additional symptoms other than the rash.

Your doctor may also order blood tests, skin swabs, or other tests to help diagnose or rule out conditions.

Treatment and self-care

Treatment is usually tailored to the specific cause of the rash. Examples of treatments include:

Always talk with a doctor or pharmacist before taking a new medication, even if it is available over the counter.

At-home care may help alleviate symptoms, prevent complications, or reduce the risk of infections spreading. At home, you can:

  • wash your hands thoroughly before and after caring for the affected skin
  • avoid touching the rash unnecessarily
  • avoid scratching or rubbing the skin
  • apply cold compresses
  • follow your doctor’s advice for care

Read more about treatment and self-care for skin infections.

Prevention

To help prevent causes of a rash that feels hot to the touch:

  • regularly wash your hands with soap and water
  • avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors
  • keep your skin clean, hydrated, and dry
  • promptly treat cuts or wounds
  • stay up to date with all vaccinations recommended by your doctor

Summary

A rash that feels hot to the touch is often a symptom of an infection. Noninfectious causes include eczema and cutaneous lupus.

While some mild rashes may improve on their own, infections can be serious and require medical care.

Contact a doctor immediately if you have a rash that feels warm to the touch or appears with other symptoms, such as blistering, growing bigger, or weeping fluid. Also talk with a doctor as soon as possible if you have a rash that persists or worsens.

Was this helpful?
2

Medical Reviewer: Joan Paul, MD, MPH, DTMH
Last Review Date: 2024 Jan 5
View All Skin, Hair and Nails Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.