Redness of the skin that appears anywhere on the body signalizes two possibilities: whether the area is irritated or inflamed, or there is flushing. The skin of the neck is not different. While people with a lighter complexion may have a redder appearance of the skin, the reason why skin redness occurs applies to all complexions. Normally, redness is caused by the tiny blood vessels under the skin surface being much wider and having more blood flowing through it.
What is Red Neck Rash?
In simple words, a red neck means that more blood is flowing just underneath the skin that lies in the neck. Typically, the tiny blood vessels here carry blood laden with oxygen and nutrients to the skin cells. Also, it releases the body from the carbon dioxide and wastes of these cells. These blood vessels can widen (vasodilation) and narrow (vasoconstriction) as necessary to cater for the metabolic demands of the cells.
Normally, the blood vessels will also widen and narrow for different reasons. Some of these reasons are attributed to normal changes relying on a group of factors like the environmental temperature. It is also said to be due to physiologic causes. Yet, when the widening or narrowing occurs due to diseases, it is said to be because of pathologic factors. Regardless of the cause, redness is basically due to widening of the blood vessels that allow more blood to flow just under the skin of the neck.
Not very often, redness can be a result of a burst of blood vessel where small amounts of blood empties out and gathers the tissues of the skin. It is medically known as hematoma. Eventually, this blood will take a dark red to purple and brown color. Notice, when a person’s skin color is light, the changes in blood flow whether physiologic or pathologic are visible. Often there are other signs and symptoms that may come with this redness, such as swelling, burning, pain, itching and heat over the affected area.
What are the Causes of Red Neck Rash?
Physiologic changes in blood flow occurs with:
- Hot weather where the blood vessels dilate to dissipate heat into the environment.
- Alcohol intake and with the intake of certain illicit substances and prescription drugs.
- Excessively eating spicy foods or with drinking beverages caffeine.
- Strong emotions, like anger.
- Hormonal changes like during pregnancy or menopause.
In most of these cases, the redness happens without other skin symptoms like itching, burning, swelling and etc. Yet, with pathologic factors, there are usually other skin symptoms that we often mutually name it as a rash. It is caused by inflammation where inflammatory chemicals are released at the site. This causes the blood vessels to widen (redness and heat) and become leaky; therefore, fluid can empty out into the tissue spaces (swelling) and for specialized receptors at the site to become activated (burning, pain or itching).
An allergic reaction is one of the common factors that cause neck redness. It happens when there is direct contact with another harmless substance that incorrectly arises immune activity. In case it is localized when the skin of the neck directly contacts with an allergen then it is known as allergic contact dermatitis.
This may occur with an allergy to specific kinds of textiles, skin creams or other substances that make directly contact with the skin, and often with an allergy to certain metals found in neck jewelry. In some cases, the allergic reaction is systemic in that it occurs throughout the body when the allergen is ingested or inhaled.
Unfortunately, infection of the skin of the neck is not uncommon. It is the result of a number of infectious agents although most are due to bacteria, viruses or fungi. On one hand, bacterial infections may be limited to the skin of the neck (impetigo) or affect just a hair follicle. In case it extends deeper into the subcutaneous tissue, then it can be very serious.
On the other hand, viral infections of the neck skin may be present in conditions such as shingles, chickenpox, herpes simplex and other conditions.
As for fungal infections, they are common and when it infects the neck it is often a continuation of a fungal infection of the scalp or the beard area.
Any number of substances can infect the skin and trigger inflammation even without an allergic reaction. When these irritants directly contact with the skin of the neck and arises a reaction then the condition is known as irritant contact dermatitis.
Detergents, soap, pool chlorine, certain skin applications, constant rubbing of clothing against the skin and others can all cause the skin discomfort. However, it is often not realized that even harmless substances can irritate the skin like water and a person’s own sweat if it is on the skin for too long.
Other Skin Diseases
Rosacea: It is a skin condition of extreme redness of the skin, often with pus-filled blisters. Medically speaking, it is a chronic condition that tends to affect women with lighter skin complexions. The cause is still a matter of anonymity, but alcohol, spicy food, hot weather, sunlight and stress tend to trigger or worsen the condition. The face is more commonly affected.
Atopic dermatitis: It is best defined as a condition that often arises in childhood. It often occurs accompanied by other conditions such as asthma and allergic rhinitis. Red and dry skin and itching are the main signs and it most often affects the folds of the body, like elbows, behind the knees, behind the ears, and the neck.
Acne vulgaris: Which is a common condition especially occurs among teens. It occurs when the follicles get blocked with oil plugs and then may become infected. Skin redness and pimples are the main symptoms. Normally, it affects the face rash, scalp, shoulders and chest but can also occur on other areas like the neck.
Heat rash (miliaria or prickly heat): is a skin problem that is mostly seen in infants and young children, yet, it may also affect adults. It occurs when the sweat ducts get blocked. As a result, perspiration produced in the sweat glands are held under the skin and gives rise to a the fine bumps seen in heat rash.
Psoriasis : is a chronic skin condition where there is inflammation and thickening of the skin. It is an autoimmune condition where the skin cells do not slough off as it should. There are different types of psoriasis, with psoriasis vulgaris being the most common. The lesions appear as thick red to silvery white plaques.
Seborrheic dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition that occurs for unknown reasons. There is excess oil (sebum) production leading to a yellow scaly skin lesion that may crust and flake off. The oily areas of the skin like the scalp and face are more commonly affected.