Rashes are often itchy, uncomfortable, and can make you feel miserable.
They are patches of irritated or swollen skin of varying sizes that may be red, irritated, or painful.
Allergies, chemicals, infections, and other medical problems can cause rashes.
While rashes can be caused by many different things, there are many steps you can take at home to treat them and ease your discomfort.
There are many evidence-based home remedies for rashes, including the below:
- Cold compress
- Oatmeal bath
- Apple cider vinegar
- Coconut oil
- Aloe vera
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Epsom salts
- Baking soda
- Tea tree oil
While these things can be effective, it’s also important to know when to see your doctor or health care provider.
Additionally, if you have a rash, be sure not to scratch, as that will only make it worse.
Like throwing water on a flame, a cold compress can help to take the heat out of a painful rash.
You can apply a cool rag to the affected area, or even take a cold shower or bath.
You can also fill a bag with ice and apply it to the rash until the itching or discomfort subsides.
Give your skin a break and only leave the ice pack on for 15-20 minutes at a time, and only over a cloth, not directly on your skin, to avoid causing a burn.
Cold is a great way to address inflammation, which is a common trigger for rashes.
Word of warning: never apply ice cubes directly to the skin.
Always put in a bag or a towel to create a barrier between the skin and the ice.
More than just a favorite breakfast food, oats have been a topical medicinal agent for hundreds of years.
Oatmeal is anti-inflammatory and can help to repair skin, thanks to the presence of oleic acid and linoleic oil.
These compounds help to decrease surface inflammation and can reduce redness, pain, and itching.
Oats can be used for burns and eczema, as well as minor rashes.
The FDA has even approved colloidal oatmeal as a protectant for skin, and it can be found in OTC therapies for eczema, dermatitis, and more.
Colloidal oatmeal can be added to a bath, used topically under a compress, or applied via lotions or creams.
If using oatmeal in a bath, soak for at least 30 minutes for best results.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar, or ACV as it’s sometimes known, has been used for hundreds of years to treat skin irritation and infections.
It has antimicrobial properties and works by inhibiting bacteria that can trigger inflammation or infection.
Any apple cider vinegar will work, but be sure to read the label. Sometimes vinegar is sold as a mixture of different vinegar types.
You will want the apple cider vinegar with “the mother,” which is the cloudy brownish blob in the bottle that provides antimicrobial properties.
Apple cider vinegar often needs to be diluted if sold in a concentrated form.
Make sure to follow directions closely, and avoid applying pure apple cider vinegar directly to your skin, as that can cause irritation and even burns.
Coconut oil is a saturated fat that is composed of mostly medium-chain fatty acids.
It is anti-inflammatory and has antimicrobial qualities. It can be used for moisturizing the skin, but may also help ease pain or redness from irritated skin, too.
Coconut oil has been studied in several populations, showing benefits for infant atopic dermatitis, adult xerosis, and general wound healing.
Coconut is one of the top eight allergens, so if you don’t frequently eat coconut or use it topically, test it in a small area first before broadly applying.
Wait 24 hours to ensure no reaction occurs.
You may know that aloe vera can effectively treat sunburn, but it is also effective for rashes and skin irritation.
Fresh aloe vera from a plant is anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antimicrobial, and has antioxidant properties.
It contains several vitamins and fatty acids that give it its healing properties.
You can apply aloe vera gel directly to the rash or affected skin area.
Wash it first with mild soap and water, and then pat dry before applying. Reapply it several times per day, as needed.
While rare, some people do have allergies to aloe vera, so if the rash seems to be worsening after using it, wipe it off with a wet cloth and speak to your doctor right away.
Hydrocortisone is a popular OTC steroid cream that can be used for mild or moderate skin conditions.
Whether it’s a rash, insect bite, or eczema, hydrocortisone cream quickly reduce some of the redness and irritation. It comes in different strengths ranging from 0.5-1%, and is available as a prescription at a higher strength of 2.5%.
Hydrocortisone can work for rashes caused by inflammatory skin conditions or triggers, but it won’t work for hives, acne, or rosacea.
If you use hydrocortisone cream and your rash worsens, speak with your doctor to get the right diagnosis and treatment.
Hydrocortisone cream can often be applied 1-3 times daily.
Make sure to rub it in gently until it is fully absorbed. Keep it away from the eyes in particular, and avoid using it on the face because the thinner skin can be sensitive and have worsening irritation after steroid use.
Epsom salt is a bath crystal form of magnesium sulfate that is often used for achy muscles or general body pain.
It may also have benefits for dry, itchy, or irritated skin when added to a warm bath and soaked for at least 15 minutes.
It can help to promote a better skin barrier and decrease inflammation.
Epsom salts have been used for hundreds of years and still work as a great at-home remedy for rashes or irritated skin.
Baking soda is used to eliminate bad odors from closets or refrigerators, but it also has a pH-buffering quality that could decrease itchiness or discomfort from skin irritation and rashes.
If inflammation is causing your rash, baking soda can work by helping to restore some of the alkalinity.
Add 1-2 cups of baking soda to a warm bath and soak for several minutes.
Pat dry (do not rub) and then apply a moisturizer for sensitive skin, nothing with scents or irritating ingredients.
You can also mix a little water with baking soda and apply it as a paste directly to the rash or affected area.
Do not use baking soda near the eyes.
Tea Tree Oil
Essential oils are popular home remedies, sometimes without much evidence to support their use.
Tea tree oil however, also known as Melaleuca alternifolia, is an Australian plant that has been used medicinally for many years.
Tea tree oil is considered to be an antimicrobial, and useful for treating mild infections and inflammation, although if applied directly to the skin in its pure form, it can cause irritation.
Prior to use, it needs to be diluted with a carrier oil and tested in a small spot to see if it leads to any reactions.
Some people may be allergic to it or to certain preparations, since many essential oil companies also bottle other plant-based products. It should never be used near the eyes or ingested.
Dry air conditions can lead to dry skin, which may exacerbate inflammatory skin conditions like eczema or other rashes.
Using a humidifier as a short-term remedy for a skin rash, especially if that rash was brought on or worsened dry, winter air, can be an effective way to reduce irritation.
You can use small humidifiers designed for single rooms, or get larger ones that add moisture to the air for larger spaces.
The amount of humidity that will be effective will depend on your climate and the condition of your skin.
Be careful not to over humidify your room or house, as it can lead to mold from excess moisture build-up.
Be sure to regularly clean your humidifier, too, since mold or mildew can accumulate inside.
You can use a humidifier for short periods of time, like while you are asleep, or you can use it all day long.
Just make sure your environment does not get too moist.
When to See a Doctor
Rashes can be caused by many things, from poison ivy to contact with a strong household cleaner to a stress reaction.
With so many triggers for rashes, it can be hard to know when you need to see a doctor.
If your rash appears suddenly and accompanies other signs of an allergic reaction, like difficulty breathing, sweating, or swelling, you should seek emergency medical care.
If you attempt to treat a rash with home remedies and it worsens or does not go away over time, your health care provider should be notified.
They may be able to prescribe more effective treatment and offer a clear diagnosis as to what is causing the rash.
How K Health Can Help
If you have a rash that you’re concerned about, you can check in with a K Health primary care provider without leaving your home.
Skip the waiting rooms, the lines, and the potential that your doctor will just tell you to use a home remedy anyway. K Health care providers are affordable and accessible, 24 hours a day.
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Check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed, text with a healthcare provider in minutes.
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. (2018).
Antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans; downregulating cytokine and microbial protein expression. (2018).
The effect of topical virgin coconut oil on SCORAD index, transepidermal water loss, and skin capacitance in mild to moderate pediatric atopic dermatitis: a randomized, double-blind, clinical trial. (2013).
A randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing extra virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis. (2004).
Aloe vera: a short review. (2008).
Climatotherapy at the Dead Sea: an effective treatment modality for atopic dermatitis with significant positive impact on quality of life. (2012).
Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea Tree) Oil: a Review of Antimicrobial and Other Medicinal Properties. (2006).