Common Bacterial Skin Infections That Cause Rashes

Cellulitis, impetigo, and folliculitis make this list

Bacterial skin infections are very common, and they can range in seriousness from merely annoying to deadly. Most bacterial skin rashes are caused by one of two types of bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus or a form of Streptococcus.

Do you have a rash that you think might be caused by bacteria? Below, you'll find a list of the most common bacterial skin infections. ​

If you think that you may have one of these bacterial skin rashes, make an appointment with either your primary care provider or your dermatologist (a doctor who specializes in the skin) for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Cellulitis on the foot.
Richard Wareham/Getty Images

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the two deeper layers of the skin, the dermis, and the subcutaneous tissue. This is a very common skin infection.

Most cases of cellulitis are easy to treat if they are caught early. The longer that you wait to get treatment, the more damage the bacteria can do to the skin.


Erysipelas on the foot.
kajsa/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Erysipelas is a bacterial infection that occurs in the top layers of the skin. It's also called St. Anthony's Fire because it burns and is very painful. In erysipelas, the skin is usually very red and swollen, and there is a well-defined border between the normal skin and the infected skin.


Folliculitis on a child’s back.
Jodi Jacobson/Getty Images

Folliculitis is another very common bacterial skin infection. Folliculitis is an infection of the hair follicle, which is a pretty small structure.

Given this, it makes sense that this infection looks like a group of little, red bumps that can be filled with a small amount of pus. Folliculitis usually heals without scarring.


Hot Tub Folliculitis.
Joel Carillet/Getty Images

Hot tub folliculitis is an infection of the hair follicles caused by the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This bacteria is commonly found in contaminated whirlpools, hot tubs, water slides, physiotherapy pools, or even loofah sponges. Children tend to get hot tub folliculitis more often (probably because they stay in the water longer).


A furuncle.
Mahdouch/Wikimedia Commons//CC BY 1.0

Whereas folliculitis is an infection of the hair follicle, a furuncle is an infection of the entire pilosebaceous unit. The pilosebaceous unit is made up of the hair shaft, the hair follicle, the sebaceous gland, and the erector pili muscle, which causes hair to stand on end when it contracts. Pilosebaceous units are located all over the body, except on the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, and the lower lip. You'll find a greater number of them on the face, chest, and upper neck. If a furuncle is not treated in an early stage, it can become an abscess and might have to be drained.



Drvgaikwad/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0

A carbuncle is a collection of multiple infected pilosebaceous units—in other words, it's actually several furuncles (see above) that are densely packed together. It's a much more serious infection than a furuncle. 

CFCF/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 4.0

Impetigo is a bacterial infection of the top layer of the skin, the epidermis. The hallmark of impetigo is a honey-colored crust. If you have impetigo, your doctor will probably prescribe a topical antibiotic (one that you apply to the skin) instead of an oral antibiotic (one that you take by mouth).


2009 Caliendo - Custom Medical Stock Photo

Erythrasma is a bacterial skin infection that occurs in areas where skin touches skin, like between toes, in the armpits, or in the groin. Due to its location and color, erythrasma is often confused with fungal infections like jock itch.

If you have what you think is a fungal infection that isn't getting better with an anti-fungal treatment, you may have erythrasma. You should see your doctor because erythrasma is easily treated with the proper antibiotics.


Hidradenitis Suppurativa
2009 NMSB - Custom Medical Stock Photo

Hidradenitis suppurativa is a bacterial infection of certain sweat glands that are found in the armpits, the groin, the buttocks, the scalp and under the female breasts. People don't get hidradenitis until after puberty, and there is a form of this disease that runs in families.


Continue Reading