Common leg rash: symptoms, causes and treatment.


A leg rash can be unsettling and uncomfortable, especially if you are not sure what it is or what is causing it. The causes of leg rashes can range from infection to irritation to an allergic reaction. Also, the different types of rashes often have similar characteristics.

When you notice a rash, it is important to find out the type so that it can be treated effectively. If the rash is new, it is best to see a doctor for the correct diagnosis.

You can safely treat yourself (using the method recommended by your healthcare professional) if the harmless rash reappears. However, if you are not sure what you have or if the rash gets worse or does not go away, see your doctor.

Athlete's foot

Athlete's foot. DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

Athlete's foot, also called tinea pedis , is an infection caused by a fungus that corrodes old skin cells.


Athlete's foot is a red, itchy rash that usually affects the soles of the feet and between the toes. Chronic athletic foot causes a scaly rash that can be mistaken for dry skin , while a sharp athletic foot can cause itchy, red, and blistering rashes.


As the name suggests, athletic feet are common among athletes because fungi are common in hot, humid areas around swimming pools and public showers; in changing rooms, it is often reversed .

Other factors that increase the risk of developing athlete's foot include:

  • Sweat a lot
  • Keeping feet wet for a long time or not changing sweaty socks
  • Wear closed-toe shoes with plastic lining.
  • Minor injuries to the skin or nails.

Watch out

If you suspect you have an athletic foot, treat it as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the stronger the rash will get. Mild athlete's foot can usually be treated with an antifungal powder or cream. However, if the infection persists, your healthcare provider may prescribe a stronger oral antifungal agent .

Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac

Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac rash are skin blisters caused by contact with the oily sap of these common plants.


The main symptom of poison ivy, poison oak , and poison sumac rashes is a blistering, itchy rash that begins to appear 12 to 72 hours after contact with the oil. Swelling or shortness of breath are signs of a serious reaction that requires immediate medical attention .


Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac contain an oil in their leaves, stems, roots, and fruits called urushiol. If you are sensitive to it, like most people, you can develop a skin rash that touches any part of these plants.

Watch out

If you have a mild rash caused by poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac, it usually clears up on its own in one to three weeks without treatment. In this case, the best treatment is to reduce the itch so that you are not tempted to scratch the rash, which could lead to an infection. Here are some ways to treat a poisonous plant rash:

  • Apply an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream.
  • Apply a cold compress to the rash.
  • Use a skin protectant (such as calamine, zinc acetate, zinc carbonate, zinc oxide) to dry the rash and stop oozing.
  • Use a skin protectant (baking soda, colloidal oatmeal) to relieve mild irritation and itching.

If you have a severe reaction, your doctor will prescribe a steroid ointment or oral prednisone. In case of infection, an antibiotic will be prescribed.

If you think your skin has been exposed to poison ivy, immediately rinse the affected area with water to remove and deactivate the urushiol causing the reaction. Although you can still develop symptoms, shortening the exposure time should reduce the severity of the reaction.

Diseases of the hands, feet and mouth.

Diseases of the hands, feet and mouth. Photo by Jill Lehmann / Getty Images

Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is a common viral infection that usually affects children younger than 5 years old. Although less common, HFMD can also become infected in older children and adults .


The first symptoms of HFMD are usually fever, decreased appetite, sore throat, and general malaise. After a day or two, a rash may appear on the soles of the feet and the palms of the hands, as well as painful sores in the mouth .

However, not everyone experiences all the symptoms of HFMD, and some people may not have any symptoms.


Hand, foot, and mouth disease is most often caused by contact with an enterovirus called Coxsackie A16 virus. In some cases, primarily outside of the United States, HFMD is caused by enterovirus 71.

The viruses that cause HFMD can be found in the stool, saliva, sputum, and nasal mucus of an infected person, as well as in the blisters from an HFMD rash. You can get HFMD from contact with any of these substances, as well as from close contact, inhalation of contaminated air, and contact with contaminated objects.

Watch out

There is no specific treatment for HFMD or a vaccine to prevent it, but if you or your child does contract HFMD, over-the-counter pain and fever medications (NSAIDs) can help with symptoms. * Mouthwashes and sprays designed to numb mouth pain may also be helpful. In some cases, mouth ulcers can make swallowing difficult. If dehydration occurs, IV fluids may be required.

Children should not receive aspirin due to the risk of Reye's syndrome.


Cellulite on the leg. Dr. P. MARAZZI / SCIENTIFIC PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Images

Cellulitis is a serious bacterial skin infection that can form on the foot (or anywhere on the body) when bacteria enter through damaged skin.


The main symptom of cellulite is a painful rash with red, sensitive skin that can blister and then crust over. You may also feel a fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, or enlarged lymph nodes due to infection. Sometimes bacterial infections like cellulitis are mistaken for athlete's foot because they have the same red, painful rash.


Cellulitis is most commonly caused by group A streptococcal bacteria that invade the skin in any lesion, even a small, seemingly harmless skin lesion. Bacteria can also enter your feet through ingrown toenails.

Watch out

Cellulite can spread quickly and requires immediate attention. Your healthcare professional will usually take a swab of your skin or perform a blood test to determine which bacteria are causing the infection. This can help them determine what type of treatment is most appropriate.

You will be treated with oral antibiotics for milder cases or intravenous (IV) antibiotics for severe cases. Your healthcare provider will ask you to monitor the size of the rash to make sure it goes away and does not spread after treatment.

Dyshidrotic eczema

Dyshidrotic eczema.  

Dyshidrotic eczema is a common form of eczema that affects the soles of the feet, toes, palms, and fingers. It is more common in women than in men. Other names for dyshidrotic eczema include dyshidrosis, hand and foot eczema, chiropomfolix, pomfolix, gallbladder eczema, and palmoplantar eczema.


Although all forms of eczema are itchy and red, dyshidrotic eczema has some unique characteristics, including :

  • Painful, itchy deep blisters on the soles of the feet, toes, palms, and fingers.
  • Redness
  • Peeling
  • Flaky and cracked skin


People with contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, or close relatives with dyshidrotic eczema are at increased risk of developing this condition.

This can be due to a number of reasons, including stress and wet feet or hands from excessive sweating or prolonged contact with water. Eating or touching nickel, cobalt, or chromium salts can also cause dyshidrotic eczema.

Watch out

Treatment for dyshidrotic eczema may include soaking your feet (or hands) in cold water several times a day before applying a moisturizer or cream to repair the skin barrier.

In more severe cases, the doctor may blot the blisters or inject Botox into the arms or legs to relieve sweating. You may be prescribed topical steroids, topical calcineurin inhibitors (TCI), or phototherapy to relieve the rash.

Footwear contact dermatitis

Shoe contact dermatitis is a rash caused by an allergic reaction to shoes or socks.


Shoe contact dermatitis is usually an itchy, scaly rash on the balls of your feet, toes, or heels. The rash can also blister .


There are a number of possible allergens that may be present in the rubber, adhesives, leather, paint, or metals used to make your shoes. Chromate salts, which are used as tannins in leather products, and various types of rubber compounds are common allergens that can cause contact dermatitis in footwear.

Watch out

If you have an allergic reaction to shoes, the first step in treatment is to minimize contact with the allergen. This can be frustrating, especially if you just bought a shoe that you have an allergic reaction to, but it is important for the health of your feet and prevents further irritation.

The reaction usually goes away on its own. A cold compress and / or anti-itch cream (such as hydrocortisone or calamine) can help relieve itching.


Scabies. DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

Scabies is a skin disease caused by mites (S. arcoptes scabiei ) . It is highly contagious and can spread rapidly from person to person in places of close physical contact, such as a school or hospital.


Symptoms of scabies include severe itching and a pimple-like rash that can affect various parts of the body, including the feet. Symptoms can develop in four to eight weeks. During this time, you can still spread scabies to other people .


Scabies occurs when skin-to-skin contact with a sick person has scabies. It can also be spread by touching or sharing clothing, towels, or bedding with someone with the condition. Sometimes it can also be obtained sexually .

Watch out

Treatment is recommended not only for people with scabies, but also for everyone who lives in their home, sexual partners, and everyone with whom they regularly come in skin-to-skin contact. The stages of treatment include :

  • Disinfect bedding, clothing, and towels. This can be done by washing in hot water and drying in a hot dryer, dry cleaning or sealing the items in a plastic bag for 72 hours, as the mites will die in a couple of days without contact with the skin.
  • Use a prescription scabies lotion or cream (permethrin) from head to toe to kill the mites and / or their eggs.

All people receiving treatment should be treated at the same time to prevent reinfection. If the itching persists more than four weeks after treatment, you may need to repeat the treatment steps.

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