A rash is an inflammatory response that causes changes to your skin, such as redness, itching, blistering, or scaly or raised skin patches. Rashes can be caused by a variety of things. Lymph nodes are part of your lymphatic system. They filter fluids in... Read more
A rash is an inflammatory response that causes changes to your skin, such as redness, itching, blistering, or scaly or raised skin patches. Rashes can be caused by a variety of things.
Lymph nodes are part of your lymphatic system. They filter fluids in your body and return them to your circulation system for disposal. They also house infection-fighting cells. You can’t typically feel your lymph nodes when you’re healthy, but they can become swollen and tender when your body is having an immune response. Swollen lymph nodes usually feel soft and round, like a pea or bean beneath your skin. In some cases, they can feel hard.
It’s possible to develop a rash and swollen lymph nodes together. Learn about potential causes of these symptoms.
What causes a rash and swollen lymph nodes?
A rash and swollen lymph nodes are signs of an infection or immune response. If you have a minor infection, your symptoms will likely resolve on their own with time and rest. If your rash and swollen lymph nodes are caused by a serious infection, you may need medical treatment.
Enlargement of the lymph nodes, or lymphadenopathy, can also be caused by cancers such as head and neck malignancies and lymphoma. However, a rash may not be concurrently present. Certain medications can cause a syndrome called serum sickness that manifests as fever, joint pain, rash, and lymphadenopathy. Those medications include penicillin, allopurinol, and hydralazine.
Some potential infectious and autoimmune causes of rash and swollen lymph nodes include:
- fifth disease, a viral illness marked by a red rash on your face and other parts of your body
- systemic lupus erythematosus, a chronic condition that can cause a butterfly-like rash to develop over your cheeks and the bridge of your nose
- measles, a viral infection that causes large, flat blotches to develop on your skin
- rubella, a virus, also known as “German measles,” characterized by a rash that begins on your face and spreads down your body
- scarlet fever, a reaction to a strep throat infection that causes a rash to develop on your neck and chest
- chickenpox, a highly contagious virus that causes a blister-like rash
- shingles, a painful rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox
- skin infections, such as cellulitis
When should I seek medical help?
Seek medical attention immediately if your rash and swollen lymph nodes are accompanied by breathing difficulties, tightness in your throat, or swelling in your face.
Make an appointment with your doctor if:
- you experience fever or joint pain along with your rash and swollen lymph nodes
- your lymph nodes feel hard and rock-like
- you experience swelling on or near your rash
- your symptoms don’t improve in two days
This information is a summary. Always seek medical attention if you’re concerned that you may be experiencing a medical emergency.
How are rash and swollen lymph nodes treated?
To treat your rash and swollen lymph nodes, your doctor will try to diagnose and address the underlying cause of your symptoms. They will likely start by evaluating your symptoms and medical history. They’ll ask you several questions, such as:
- When did your symptoms begin?
- Does anything cause your symptoms to get worse or better?
- Have you recently been exposed to anyone who is sick?
Rash and swollen lymph nodes tend to stem from viral infections. Antibiotics are ineffective for treating this type of infection. But your doctor may recommend other medications to help relieve your symptoms. For example, they may encourage you to apply an anti-itch cream or take an antihistamine to reduce the itchiness or pain caused by your rash.
How can I ease my symptoms at home?
It’s important to follow your doctor’s recommended treatment plan. In many cases, rest is the best healer for viral infections that cause rash and swollen lymph nodes. You can also take steps at home to achieve greater comfort.
Keep the rash-covered portions of your skin clean and dry to help reduce irritation. Wash your skin with mild, unscented soap and warm water. Gently pat it dry. Avoid rubbing or scratching your rash, which can irritate it more.
Rest and avoid overexertion to give your body the chance to heal. Drink cool, clear fluids to maintain hydration. Taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, can also help relieve pain associated with your illness.
How can I prevent rash and swollen lymph nodes?
Washing your hands regularly with warm water and soap helps prevent infections. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to help kill infection-causing germs when soap and water aren’t available. It’s also important to keep your vaccinations up to date.