A rash under the breast, or on the chest, may result from skin irritation or an allergic reaction. Other causes can include infections and skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis.

There are many factors that can cause rashes under the breasts or on other areas of the body. They range from irritation to chronic conditions.

Intertrigo can cause a rash due to inflammation that is the result of the skin rubbing against other skin in the area. This causes heat and moisture in the area and can lead to a rash. Intertrigo is not an infection. However, it can often lead to a fungal or bacterial infection. An individual can prevent intertrigo by keeping the area clean and dry. If there is an infection, treatment can include antifungal or antibiotic creams.

This article describes some of the causes of a rash under the breast and the options for treatment. It also covers when to see a doctor.

eczemaShare on Pinterest
Image credit: Tvbanfield, 2009

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a long-term inflammatory condition that affects more than 31 million people in the United States. It can begin at any point in a person’s life.

There are various different types of eczema that affect people in different ways.

However, most types of eczema causes patches of skin to become:

  • itchy
  • red or discolored
  • dry, cracked, or scaly
  • sore
  • swollen
  • oozing or crusty

The rash can develop on any part of the body, but it usually affects the hands, elbows, knees, and face.

It can also occur in folds of skin, such as under the breasts or where the legs meet the buttocks. Symptoms tend to come and go, and the severity varies from person to person.

Healthcare professionals do not fully understand what causes eczema, but certain factors seem to trigger symptoms in some people. Common triggers include:

  • soaps
  • detergents
  • particular foods
  • stress
  • weather


Treatments for eczema include moisturizing creams, or emollients, as well as topical steroids and antihistamines. It can also help to avoid contact with known triggers.

Learn more about eczema.

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Image credit: Jurfeld, 2018

Heat rash occurs when sweat gland ducts in the skin become blocked and the sweat flows back into the gland.

Other names for heat rash include miliaria, sweat rash, and prickly heat.

Heat rash typically consists of small red or discolored spots, which may feel itchy, prickly, or swollen.

The condition is common in newborns because their sweat glands have not yet fully developed, but it can occur in anyone.

Heat rash results from excessive sweating, and causes can include:

  • hot, humid weather
  • wearing heavy or nonbreathable clothing
  • intense exercise or physical activity
  • fever


People can relieve symptoms of heat rash with the following options:

  • cold compresses
  • cool showers
  • wearing breathable clothing
  • calamine lotion
  • mild steroid creams

Learn more about heat rash.

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Contact dermatitis is a type of eczema that occurs when the skin comes into contact with a specific allergen or irritant.

It typically causes an itchy, red, or discolored rash that may also be swollen, dry, and blistered. Depending on the type of reaction, this rash may develop almost immediately or take several hours or days to appear.

Common triggers of contact dermatitis include:

  • soaps, detergents, and disinfectants
  • plants, such as poison ivy or poison oak
  • cosmetics, perfumes, and toiletries
  • jewelry
  • chemicals and solvents


Treatment of contact dermatitis depends on the cause and the type of reaction. It can include:

It also helps to avoid known triggers.

Learn more about contact dermatitis.

Hives, or urticaria, is an itchy rash of red or discolored bumps or welts that can develop anywhere on the skin, including under the breast. The bumps usually blanch, or turn white, when a person presses on them.

Hives are often a result of an allergic reaction. Triggers can include:

  • foods, such as nuts, shellfish, and milk
  • medications, such as certain antibiotics and aspirin
  • insect bites and stings
  • latex
  • animal dander
  • dust mites
  • pollen
  • plants

Hives can also be a symptom of anaphylaxis — a severe and potentially life threatening type of allergic reaction that requires immediate medical attention. Other symptoms of anaphylaxis can include:

  • trouble breathing or wheezing
  • swelling of the face, hands, and feet
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fainting, dizziness, or loss of consciousness

Anaphylaxis: Symptoms and what to do

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be life threatening. The symptoms develop suddenly and include:

  • hives
  • swelling of the face or mouth
  • wheezing
  • fast, shallow breathing
  • a fast heart rate
  • clammy skin
  • anxiety or confusion
  • dizziness
  • vomiting
  • blue or white lips
  • fainting or loss of consciousness

If someone has these symptoms:

  1. Check whether they are carrying an epinephrine pen. If they are, follow the instructions on the side of the pen to use it.
  2. Dial 911 or the number of the nearest emergency department.
  3. Lay the person down from a standing position. If they have vomited, turn them onto their side.
  4. Stay with them until the emergency services arrive.

Some people may need more than one epinephrine injection. If the symptoms do not improve in 5–15 minutes, or they come back, use a second pen if the person has one.

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Additional issues that can cause hives include:

  • bacterial and viral infections
  • emotional stress
  • physical triggers, such as pressure, temperature, sun exposure, and exercise


Treatment for hives includes antihistamine medications and avoiding known triggers. For people with severe or persistent hives, a healthcare professional may prescribe steroids or refer them to a dermatologist.

Learn more about hives.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune chronic skin disorder. In its most common type, plaque psoriasis, it causes thick patches of red or discolored, scaly, and itchy skin. These patches can develop anywhere on the body, but they often appear on the:

  • elbows
  • knees
  • lower back
  • hands
  • face

There are several types of psoriasis, each with its own characteristics, and the severity can vary from person to person. Symptoms of psoriasis often flare and then reduce for a time.

Inverse psoriasis is the most common type that develops under the breast. The rash is characterized by smooth, red or discolored patches of skin in the folds of the body. Rubbing and sweating can make it worse.

Inverse psoriasis often occurs under the breasts, or in the armpits or the groin area. It does not usually cause the flaky patches that develop with other types of psoriasis.


Treatment options can include:

  • topical medications
  • light therapy
  • systemic or biologic drugs

Learn more about psoriasis.

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Scabies is a condition that occurs when parasitic mites burrow into the skin. The main symptom is an itchy rash of tiny red or discolored spots. The itching tends to be worse at night, and scratching the rash can cause sores.

The rash can develop on any part of the body, but the burrow marks tend to appear in areas such as:

  • the skin between the fingers and toes
  • skin folds under the breast
  • the nipples
  • the wrists, palms, elbows, and armpits
  • the waist or belt line
  • the head, face, or neck
  • the soles of the feet in infants and children
  • the groin area and buttocks


Scabies is contagious, and there are no effective over-the-counter (OTC) medications for treating it, so it is important to seek medical attention. A healthcare professional can prescribe medicated creams or lotions to kill the mites and relieve symptoms.

Learn more about scabies.

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Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the deep layers of skin and the tissues beneath them. It usually occurs in the breast, rather than on the skin underneath it, but cellulitis can make the breast appear and feel:

  • red or discolored
  • swollen
  • hot
  • tender
  • painful

Other symptoms can include:

  • pus-filled blisters
  • fatigue
  • fever or chills
  • nausea and vomiting
  • dizziness
  • confusion

Symptoms of this infection can come on suddenly and progress quickly. People with symptoms of cellulitis should seek immediate medical attention. Severe infections can spread to other parts of the body and become life threatening.


Healthcare professionals treat cellulitis with antibiotics, which a person may need to take for 7–14 days. Though symptoms usually improve within a few days of treatment, it is important to complete the full course of antibiotics.

Learn more about cellulitis.

Some viral infections can cause a rash under the breast.


Chickenpox, or varicella, results from infection with the varicella-zoster virus. It is a highly contagious disease.

Chickenpox typically starts out as an itchy, red or discolored, spotty rash on the chest, back, and face, rather than under the breasts. Over the course of several days, these spots develop into fluid-filled blisters that eventually scab over.

Other symptoms can include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • aching muscles


Chickenpox is often treatable at home using calamine lotion and cool baths to help relieve the itching. It is important to try not to scratch the affected areas in order to prevent infection and spreading the virus to others.

Learn more about chickenpox.


Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a painful rash that typically develops as a single stripe on one side of the body, such as under one breast.

The rash usually lasts for 2–4 weeks and begins as red or discolored blotches, which turn into itchy blisters that scab over within 7–10 days.

Some people experience severe pain, tingling, or itching in the affected area before the rash appears. Other symptoms of shingles can include:

  • headache
  • fever and chills
  • generally feeling unwell

Anyone who has ever had chickenpox can develop shingles later in life. Shingles can occur at any age, but it is more common in adults 60 years or older.


Healthcare professionals may prescribe antiviral drugs or pain medications for people with shingles. Some at-home treatments include calamine lotion, wet compresses, and oatmeal baths.

Learn more about shingles.

A person should contact a healthcare professional for any rash that is severe, persistent, painful, or recurrent. hey should also consult a healthcare professional if the rash occurs along with other symptoms such as fever, nausea, or vomiting.

Rashes, such as hives, can also be a symptom of anaphylaxis, which is a potentially life threatening allergic reaction that requires immediate medical assistance.

If a person also has any of the following symptoms, call 911 or take them to the emergency room:

  • trouble breathing or wheezing
  • swelling of the face, hands, and feet
  • nausea and vomiting
  • fainting, dizziness, or loss of consciousness

Rashes that develop under the breast often result from skin irritation or allergic reactions.

However, rashes on the chest region can also stem from infections such as shingles, cellulitis, and chickenpox. Some other possible causes include psoriasis, eczema, and heat rash.

People with rashes that are severe, recurrent, or occur with other symptoms, such as fever and vomiting, should contact a healthcare professional. Seek immediate medical attention if the rash accompanies other possible symptoms of anaphylaxis.