Are Skin Rashes Contagious?

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Rash Treatment

Most rashes are not dangerous. Many rashes last a while and get better on their own. It is therefore not unreasonable to treat symptoms like itchy and/or dry skin for a few days to see whether the condition gets milder and goes away.

Are skin rashes contagious?

There are contagious and noncontagious skin rashes. To make this broad topic more manageable, the following is a list of general categories of rashes that are considered noncontagious:

Since the real question to be answered is what rashes are contagious, the remainder of this short article will address most of those rashes that are considered contagious; not all experts agree on these designations, so readers concerned about a rash are urged to discuss their individual condition with their physician.

Rashes that are considered by many physicians to be contagious are as follows:

This list is not exhaustive but covers many of the rashes that people may encounter. The definition of contagious depends on whether the rash itself can be spread or the infection that causes the rash can be spread, so some experts may not agree with the designations above. For example, in some cases, the rash is contagious in that someone can get the rash from another person with the rash. In other cases, a person with a rash may be at risk of spreading the infection that caused the rash (which may not necessarily cause a rash in the person who gets infected).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/26/2016

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