Stomach Rash: Pictures, Causes, When to See a Doctor

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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What is stomach rash?

Rash is a symptom that causes the affected area of skin to turn red and blotchy and to swell. A rash may cause spots that are bumpy, scaly, flaky, or filled with pus. A rash on your stomach can have a variety of causes. It could be caused by contact dermatitis of the skin around your stomach or a systemic (body-wide) condition, such as an allergy or infection.

Contact dermatitis (skin inflammation) is caused by an adverse reaction to something that touches your skin, including chemicals found in detergent, soap or a fragrance. Other forms of contact dermatitis include exposure to certain plants, such as poison oak or ivy, an animal bite, or an insect sting. Lyme disease is caused by tick bite and can first appear as a circle with a bull’s-eye pattern, then progress to a rash.

Allergies to food and medications are potentially serious sources of stomach rash. Peanuts, shellfish, strawberries and avocados are just some of the foods that can trigger allergic reactions. These foods may cause mild reactions; however, in some cases reactions could develop into potentially life-threatening conditions. Allergic purpura is a serious, often life-threatening allergic reaction that can cause a skin rash but can also affect the joints, gastrointestinal tract, and kidneys.

Rashes may also occur with eczema (atopic dermatitis), psoriasis and impetigo. The stomach is a common location for psoriasis eruptions, which cause scaly white spots and inflammation.

Another cause of stomach rash is Kawasaki disease, a rare, but extremely serious, condition in children that is thought to have an autoimmune origin. It commonly occurs with a very high fever and rash, which might begin on the stomach.

Many viruses, including those that cause common childhood diseases, can produce rash. Scarlet fever often begins with a rash on the stomach before spreading to other parts of the body.

Rashes, including stomach rashes, can be caused by an allergic reaction to food, medications, or products such as lotions or detergents. These reactions can range from mild to potentially life-threatening, especially if swelling and constriction of breathing occurs, which could indicate anaphylaxis. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if a stomach rash is accompanied by any serious symptoms, including swelling of the face, swelling and constriction of the throat, difficulty breathing, fainting, change in level of consciousness or alertness, pale skin, or purple rash.

Seek prompt medical care if the stomach rash is persistent or causes you concern.

What other symptoms might occur with stomach rash?

Stomach rash may be accompanied by other symptoms, depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Certain conditions that cause stomach rash may also involve other body systems.

Related localized symptoms that may occur along with stomach rash

Stomach rash may be accompanied by other skin symptoms, including:

  • Bruising

  • Itchiness

  • Pus or discharge

  • Redness, warmth or swelling

  • Tenderness or pain

Other symptoms that may occur along with stomach rash

Stomach rash may accompany symptoms related to other body systems including:

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

In some cases, stomach rash may be a symptom of a life-threatening condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have stomach rash along with other serious symptoms including:

  • Change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness

  • Fever and chills

  • Joint pain and stiffness

  • Purple rash

  • Respiratory or breathing problems, such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or inability to breathe, labored breathing, wheezing, or choking

  • Sudden swelling of the face, lips or tongue

  • Tightness or constriction in the throat

  • Worsening of symptoms despite treatment

What does a stomach rash look like?

Stomach rashes vary considerably in severity, color, texture and itchiness, among other characteristics. Some rashes cover the entire abdomen area and possibly other parts of the body. Allergic and contact rashes, such as poison ivy, may only affect a small area. Here are some examples of stomach rash.

a red rash due to an allergic reaction on female stomach
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Allergic Dermatitis
eczema (atopic dermatitis) or skin allergy on white child's stomach
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Eczema (atopic dermatitis) on the abdomen
closeup of hives reaction on skin
Getty
Closeup shot of hives (urticaria), which can cover a large part of the body
roseola, a viral rash on the skin of a white child in diapers
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Roseola, a viral rash, on baby's abdomen
varicella disease (chickenpox) shown on girl's stomach
Getty
Chickenpox (varicella)
Shingles rash
Shingles

What causes stomach rash?

Stomach rash may have many possible causes, including allergens (agents that cause allergies), infections, autoimmune disorders, or other causes, such as stress. Characteristics of the rash and other symptoms can help diagnose its cause.

A widespread rash that covers several body areas is oftentimes caused by a viral infection, but may also be due to food allergies or autoimmune conditions. Rashes on the stomach only may be due to a substance or germ in direct contact with the skin, such as allergens, irritants or localized bacterial infection.

Allergic or inflammatory causes of stomach rash

Stomach rash may be caused by contact dermatitis. Common triggers include:

  • Cosmetics, dyes or detergents

  • Industrial chemicals, such as those found in elastic, latex and rubber

  • Metallic substances (various metals, copper, wire)

  • Poison ivy or oak

Other allergic causes of stomach rash include:

  • Eczema (skin disorder causing scaly or blistering rashes that may be caused by allergy)

  • Food allergies (allergic reactions to certain foods)

  • Insect bite allergy, such as a bee sting

Infectious causes of stomach rash

Stomach rash can also be caused by infections including:

  • Chickenpox

  • Eczema (skin disorder causing scaly or blistering rashes that may be caused by infection)

  • Erythema nodosum (red nodules under the skin associated with fever and other symptoms)

  • Impetigo

  • Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever (inflammatory bacterial diseases spread by tick bites)

  • Measles, mumps, rubella, roseola, and scarlet fever

  • Meningitis (infection or inflammation of the sac around the brain and spinal cord)

  • Pityriasis rosea (rash resembling the shape of a pine tree)

  • Ringworm

  • Scabies, although this is a skin infestation rather than infection

  • Shingles (reactivated chickenpox virus)

  • Strep throat (bacterial throat infection)

Autoimmune causes of stomach rash

Stomach rash can also be caused by autoimmune disorders including:

  • Kawasaki disease (rare, serious pediatric disorder characterized by inflammation of blood vessels, high fever, rash, and mucous membrane changes)

  • Psoriasis

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (chronic autoimmune disease characterized by joint inflammation)

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (disorder in which the body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues)

Other causes of stomach rash

Stomach rash can be caused by other factors such as:

  • Extreme cold or heat

  • Medications

  • Stress

Serious or life-threatening causes of stomach rash 

In some cases, stomach rash may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Allergic purpura

  • Anaphylaxis (life-threatening allergic reaction)

When should you see a doctor for a stomach rash?

You should see a doctor for a stomach rash if it:

  • Appears infected, such as warm to touch and oozing yellow or foul-smelling fluid

  • Covers a large area (widespread) or spreads to other body areas

  • Forms blisters

  • Occurs suddenly

  • Persists for more than a day or two or worsens rather than improves with time

  • Is very painful

  • Is accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever, weakness, joint pain, or feeling ill in general

  • Is so itchy you cannot sleep or the skin is broken

When in doubt, err on the side of caution and contact your doctor for an evaluation, especially if your child has a stomach rash.

You should seek immediate medical care (call 911) if the stomach rash occurs with any of these serious symptoms:

  • Change in level of consciousness or alertness, including fainting

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Pale skin

  • Purple rash, which is a sign of bleeding into the skin (purpura or petechiae)

  • Swelling of the face, throat or lips

If you call 911 or go to the emergency room with symptoms of a severe allergic reaction like anaphylaxis, you will receive an injection of epinephrine (Adrenalin, EpiPen) to quickly counteract the immune reaction.

How do doctors diagnose the cause of a stomach rash?

A family doctor may be able to diagnose the type and cause of stomach rash visually, but may refer you to a specialist if necessary. Your doctor will closely examine the rash and its pattern (such as on your stomach, chest and back), and ask about your symptoms. He or she may check to see if the rash blanches (fades with pressure). Non-blanching rashes are due to bleeding beneath the skin.

To help diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed healthcare provider will ask you several questions related to your rash, including:

  • When did the rash begin?

  • Are you taking any medications?

  • Do you have any known allergies?

  • Does the rash cause any itching or scaling?

  • Do you feel otherwise healthy?

  • Have you tried any new products recently, such as soaps, perfumes or sprays?

  • Have you spent a lot of time outdoors lately?

  • Do you have a family or personal history of autoimmune disorders?

In some cases, doctors order blood tests and allergy tests to help diagnose the cause. It is not always possible to diagnose an underlying cause of stomach rash. If the problem persists and your provider is unable to determine a cause, seeking a second opinion may give you more information and answers.

What are the treatments for stomach rash?

Stomach rash treatment depends on the cause. Many rash treatments and remedies are topical and available over the counter (OTC), without a prescription. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe stronger medicines, both oral and topical.

Medication for stomach rash

Treatments may include:

  • For allergic, or atopic dermatitis like eczema, you can try OTC antihistamines and other allergy medicines, medicated creams and sprays, and topical corticosteroids. Try to determine the underlying allergen, such as a new food or insect bite. If your doctor suspects you are having a severe allergic reaction, he or she will administer epinephrine (Adrenaline, EpiPen).

  • For contact dermatitis, you can try the same type of medications as for allergic dermatitis. Try to determine the underlying cause, such as new clothing or soap. A doctor can prescribe stronger corticosteroids than what is available OTC.  

  • For infections, treatment depends on the type of infection. Possible treatments include antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and corticosteroids. 

  • For autoimmune diseases, treatment may include immunosuppressants and drugs that target specific immune system factors.   

     

Home remedies for stomach rash

Home remedies also depend on the underlying cause. When the rash is painful or itchy, these home remedies can help relieve the pain:

  • Gently wash the affected area with mild soap and warm to cool water and pat dry.

  • Apply a moist and cool soft cloth for a few minutes at a time.

  • Avoid wearing clothing if possible, or wear very loose clothing.

  • Soak the area in a colloidal oatmeal water bath with warm (not hot) water.

  • Rest in a cool room if possible, especially if you have a heat rash.

  • Trim your fingernails if the rash is itchy. This will reduce the chances of breaking the skin from scratching.

What are the potential complications of stomach rash?

Because stomach rash may be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. For example, infectious diseases, such as mumps or measles, can lead to rare but serious complications, including miscarriage, hearing loss, and serious brain infections, such as encephalitis or meningitis.

Once the underlying cause of your rash is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your healthcare professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Arthritis

  • Cellulitis (infection of the skin)

  • Cognitive difficulties

  • Encephalitis (inflammation and swelling of the brain due to a viral infection or other causes)

  • Meningitis (infection or inflammation of the sac around the brain and spinal cord)

  • Miscarriage or stillbirth

  • Paralysis

  • Permanent hearing loss

  • Secondary infections, which may develop from scratching and related skin trauma
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jun 2
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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.
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