Although you may not think of it as such, your skin is the largest organ in your body. It has several functions, one of which is protection against external pollution, trauma, organisms such as insects, and chemicals. Exposure to any of these elements can cause small red bumps to appear on your skin.
Your skin also regulates your body temperature, usually through sweating. Additionally, it contains nerves that tell you if you’re touching something or feeling pain. It will tell you if those bumps you have are swollen, hot, or itchy. Your skin can tell you that you have an external or internal problem that needs your attention.
Table of Contents
Red Bumps on Your Skin Have Many Causes
Red bumps can appear nearly everywhere on your skin. They can be large or small, flat or raised, and itchy or not itchy. They can be various shades of red. They can feel hot or burning. Sometimes you don’t feel them at all and aren’t aware you even have bumps unless you happen to visually notice them.
Red bumps appear for many reasons and are seldom a cause for concern. Occasionally they are caused by an infection or disease and need medical attention. More often bumps are the result of insect bites or coming into contact with something you’re allergic to.
What Are These Little Red Itchy Bumps?
A rash is a collection of little red bumps that are almost always itchy. Rashes have a variety of causes, but they’re most often an allergic reaction. When your skin comes into contact with something that irritates it, certain cells release histamine. That’s usually when the itching starts, and that’s why the most common itch remedy is an antihistamine.
Although you can use an antihistamine for temporary relief, it won’t stop the allergic reaction and the production of histamines. The only long-term relief comes from discovering what you’re allergic to and avoiding it. That’s easier said than done and will likely require all your skills as a detective.
Why Do I Have Small Red Bumps on My Skin? If you haven’t been in contact with something that you’re possibly allergic to, then your small red bumps may be insect bites, especially if you’ve been outside. If you’ve been hot and sweaty, you may have a prickly heat rash. That happens when your sweat glands become clogged from excessive sweat, especially in the folds of your skin or in areas covered by clothing.
Small red bumps that itch can be from contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis means that something toxic has directly touched your skin and irritated it. It’s often a result of plants such as poison ivy or poison oak.
Other causes include:
- Jewelry or watch bands.
- Household cleaning products.
- Fertilizers or pesticides.
- Cosmetics or skin care products.
Any substance that comes in contact with your skin can potentially result in dermatitis.
Small and Raised
Many individuals suffer from hives. These resemble welts and range in size from tiny to very large patches. Regardless of size, they are always raised. They may feel itchy, but often you’ll feel like they’re burning. The medical term is urticaria.
Hives have a multitude of causes, some of which are unknown. Frequently they’re an allergic reaction to medication or food. Stress is another cause. Hives can appear suddenly and disappear just as quickly. Other times they’ll linger for days.
Small raised red spots that don’t itch are likely cherry angiomas. Cherry angiomas are usually bright red and vary in size. Angiomas are formed from dilated or broken blood vessels and may occur on any part of the body. They appear more often on your arms, torso, and shoulders, particularly if you’re 30 years old or older.
Most cherry angiomas don’t have a known cause. Some appear to be related to hormonal changes such as those resulting from pregnancy. Others are caused by food allergies. As a general rule, cherry angiomas come and go unnoticed. In very rare cases, cherry angiomas can become cancerous.
Younger individuals can develop a skin condition called pityriasis rosea. The bumps, which are somewhat larger than other kinds of bumps, can be mistaken for insect bites. The bumps later spread into a rash, which is occasionally itchy. Pityriasis rosea is believed to be caused by a virus, but it isn’t contagious. The rash eventually disappears without treatment.
Skin is made up of several layers:
- The strong outer layer is the epidermis. It repels foreign substances and UV light.
- The second layer is the dermis. It’s fibrous, flexible, and is home to blood vessels, hair follicles, nerves, and sweat and oil glands.
- The final layer is subcutaneous fatty tissue. It insulates, pads, and stores energy.
Bumps on Face and Legs
Little red bumps on your face are a symptom of rosacea, a skin condition that affects more women than men. It usually appears in middle age and favors fair skinned women. Rosacea isn’t curable, but it can be controlled. Spicy foods, alcohol, stress, and heat can trigger a breakout.
Red bumps on your legs are most likely folliculitis or razor rash. Folliculitis is an infection of hair follicles, which are the tiny sacs from which hair grows. It generally goes away on its own, but sometimes worsens to serious infections like boils or cellulitis.
Should I Be Worried If I Have Bumps That Itch?
Nearly all small red bumps are harmless, and most will disappear on their own. What is important is to try to determine why you have bumps. Once you figure out the reason, you’ll know if they are serious.
Many bumps are allergic reactions and disappear as soon as exposure to the allergen ends. If there are other symptoms along with the bumps, such as difficulty breathing, then you need to get to an emergency room or urgent care facility as quickly as you can.
If you wake up in the morning with red bumps on most of your body, then you need to check for bedbugs. Getting rid of them may require help from an exterminator. If you first had a single red bump that later became a rash over most of your body, the cause could be pityriasis rosea.
Red bumps that are very itchy could be scabies, which is an infection caused by a tiny parasitic mite. The rashes worsen at night. Scabies is contagious. An antihistamine can relieve the symptoms, but you may need a prescription lotion to rid yourself of the mites.
What Causes Small Itchy Red Bumps?
Itching and red bumps are generally caused by something that’s irritating your skin. The irritation might be generated from the inside, such as an allergy to medicine or food that you’ve consumed. Many irritations are a result of something external that’s come into contact with your skin.
You’ll probably need to experiment to determine the cause. It can be helpful to read the labels of products that you use regularly to see if some ingredient has been changed. Sometimes the itching and bumps go away without you discovering what caused them or what made them disappear. Sometimes medical intervention is necessary.
If the itching started before the red bumps appeared, you may have eczema. The bumps cluster in a rash that generally starts in the folds of skin or areas that are rubbed by clothing or bed sheets.
Eczema has a variety of causes, including bacteria, skin care products, and low humidity. Some people have a slight abnormality in their immune system that affects their ability to fight off infections such as eczema.
Over-The-Counter Remedies and Home Treatments
Remedies for itchy skin and red bumps are as varied as the symptoms. Myriad over-the-counter lotions, creams, and other products are available. If you know the cause of your itchy red bumps, you can probably find a product made with it in mind. Many people find calamine lotion, hydrocortisone cream, or an antihistamine effective.
Regardless of the cause of your itchy red bumps, avoid harsh soaps and hot showers or baths. Cool water is generally the most soothing. If your bumps are in a small area, try holding a cool compress against them for relief. Try baking soda in your bath water to stop the itching. Loose-fitting clothing can be more comfortable.
Home treatments are plentiful. One soothing remedy is a paste made from water and oatmeal. It can be spread on your skin or added to cool bath water. Lavender essential oil applied to your skin with a cotton ball or added to your bath also soothes irritated skin. Aloe vera gel has a cooling effect on your skin, as well as antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties. Hyland’s Homeopathic Medicine has an ointment for insect bites.
Since most red bumps on your body are allergic reactions, the best treatment is to eliminate the cause. Allergens are often found in products that you use on a daily basis. You may have built up a sensitivity to a particular ingredient, or the manufacturer may have changed the formulation of a favorite product. If the cause of your itchy red bumps is insect bites, you may need the services of an exterminator if wearing protective clothing outside doesn’t help.
When Is It Necessary to See a Doctor?
You will seldom need to consult a doctor for itchy red bumps. However, if they don’t go away within a week or so of trying any of the OTC or home remedies, it may be time to consult a skin specialist or allergist.
If your bumps or any skin growth starts showing significant changes in color, size, or shape; or if a bump or growth becomes painful or starts bleeding, then consult a dermatologist promptly. Abnormal bumps, lumps, or growths can be an indication of a serious problem.