What is a rash? A rash is an inflammatory reaction of the skin. Rashes can be caused by a wide variety of mild to serious diseases, disorders and conditions. Rashes can affect a small area of the skin or the full body and occur in all age groups and populations. Rashes vary greatly in appearance, extent and severity, depending on the underlying cause. Rashes can be red, white, purple or silver in color, and raised, bumpy or flat in texture. They can appear as dots or spots or occur in a large, continuous area. Rashes can also include scaling or flaking off of skin cells. Because of the range of possible causes of a rash, a correct diagnosis of the underlying disease, disorder or condtion is very important. Contact your health care provider for a physicial exam. A rash of purple spots can indicate a serious, potentially life-threatening condition, such as meningitis or allergic purpura. A rash that is associated with allergies combined with shortness of breath, wheezing, or swelling of the face, mouth or throat is also a symptom of a serious, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these symptoms.