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Rash - Widespread and Cause Unknown

Definition

  • Rash over large areas or most of the body (widespread or generalized)
  • Occasionally just on hands, feet and buttocks - but both sides of body
  • Red or pink rash
  • Small spots, large spots or solid red skin

Causes

  • Main cause: a 2 or 3 day rash occurring with a viral illness. Viral rashes usually have symmetrical pink spots on the trunk.
  • Other common causes: 5 rashes that you may be able to recognize are listed above in "Related Symptoms." If you suspect one of them, go to that topic. If not, use this topic.

Return to School

  • Most viral rashes are no longer contagious once the fever is gone.
  • For minor rashes, your child can return to child care or school after the FEVER is gone.
  • For major rashes, your child can return to child care or school after the RASH is gone or your doctor says it’s safe to return with the rash.

See More Appropriate Topic (instead of this one) IF

  • Chickenpox
  • Hand-Foot and Mouth Disease
  • Hives (especially if itchy)
  • Sunburn
  • Measles vaccine rash (fine pink rash occurring 7-10 days after measles vaccine), see IMMUNIZATION REACTIONS

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For more information, click here.

Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
Last Reviewed: 6/1/2011
Last Revised: 8/1/2011
Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker
Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

When To Call

Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If

  • Purple or blood-colored rash with fever
  • Sudden onset of rash (within 2 hours) and also has difficulty with breathing or swallowing
  • Not moving or too weak to stand

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If

  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • Purple or blood-colored rash WITHOUT fever
  • Bright red skin that peels off in sheets
  • Large blisters on skin
  • Bloody crusts on lips
  • Taking a prescription medication within the last 3 days
  • Fever
  • Menstruating and using tampons

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If

  • Widespread rash, but none of the symptoms described above (Reason: needs a diagnosis)

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For more information, click here.

Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
Last Reviewed: 6/1/2011
Last Revised: 8/1/2011
Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker
Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Care Advice

  1. For Non-Itchy Rashes: No treatment is necessary, except for heat rashes which respond to cool baths.
  2. For Itchy Rashes:
    • Wash the skin once with soap to remove irritants.
    • Then give your child cool baths without any soap 4 times per day for 10 minutes whenever the itch is uncomfortable (caution: avoid any chill).
    • Follow with calamine lotion or a baking soda solution (1 teaspoon in 4 ounces of water) or (5 ml in 120 ml of water)
  3. Fever Medicine: For fever above 102°F (39°C), give acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) or ibuprofen.
  4. Contagiousness:
    • If your child has a fever, avoid contact with other children and especially pregnant women until a diagnosis is made.
    • Most viral rashes are contagious (especially if a fever is present).
    • Your child can return to child care or school after the rash is gone or your doctor says it's safe to return with the rash.
  5. Expected Course: Most viral rashes disappear within 48 hours.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Your child becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms. 

To find a pediatrician, click here.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For more information, click here 

Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
Last Reviewed: 6/1/2011
Last Revised: 8/1/2011
Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker
Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Photos

Chickenpox on Abdomen

The Chickenpox rash can occur on all body surfaces.

The rash is no longer contagious when all of the spots are crusted over and no new spots are appearing. This usually takes 7 days from the first appearance of the rash.

Source: LMS Inc.
Copyright 2000-2012. Self Care Decisions, LLC. Used by Permission.

 

Chickenpox Rash

Chickenpox is an infectious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus resulting in an itchy blister-like rash, tiredness and fever.

It appears first on the trunk and face, but can spread over the entire body causing between 250 and 500 itchy blisters.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

This is a public domain image file from Wikimedia Commons. Wikimedia is a freely licensed media repository.
 

Measles Rash

This child with measles is showing the typical red blotchy rash on his buttocks and back during the 3rd day of the rash.

Measles is an acute, highly contagious viral disease. Symptoms include fever, conjunctivitis (red eyes), runny nose, cough, and spots on the inside cheeks.

A red blotchy rash appears around day 3 of the illness, first on the face, and then becoming generalized.

Source: CDC PHIL
From the CDC's Public Health Image Library, ID#4497, in the public domain.
 

Measles Rash on Face

This photo shows a child with Measles.

Measles is an acute, highly contagious viral disease. Symptoms include fever, conjunctivitis (red eyes), runny nose, cough, and spots on the inside cheeks (inside of mouth). A red blotchy rash appears around day 3 of the illness, first on the face, and then becoming more widespread.

Source: CDC PHIL
From the CDC's Public Health Image Library, ID#1150, in the public domain.

 

Penicillin Rash on the Arm

This patient had a widespread rash from an allergy to penicillin. The picture shows the arm.

Source: CDC PHIL
From the CDC's Public Health Image Library, ID#1268, in the public domain.

Content Provider(s): CDC / Dr. Sellers.

 

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

This child's right hand and wrist displays the characteristic spotted rash of Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is the most severe and most frequently reported rickettsial illness in the United States. The disease is caused by the bacteria Rickettsia rickettsii. The disease is spread by ticks.

Source: CDC PHIL
From the CDC's
Public Health Image Library, ID#1962, in the public domain.

 

Scarlet Fever Rash

The photo shows the typical Scarlet Fever rash on the forearm.

The scarlet fever rash first appears as tiny red bumps on the chest and abdomen that may spread all over the body. Looking like a sunburn, it feels like a rough piece of sandpaper, and lasts about 2-5 days.

Scarlet fever is a disease caused by the same bacteria (Streptococcus) that causes strep throat. A person with Scarlet fever has a throat that is red and sore, usually a fever, usually swollen glands in the neck, and a Scarlet fever rash.

Source: CDC PHIL
From the CDC's
Public Health Image Library, ID#5163, in the public domain.

 

 Viral Rash

This is a simple viral rash in a healthy young boy. The rash was caused by the Echovirus.

Source: CDC PHIL
Public domain image. CDC Public Health Image Library. Dr. Heinz F. Eichenwald. ID#3171.

Content Providers: CDC / Dr. Heinz F. Eichenwald.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For more information, click here.

Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
Last Reviewed: 8/1/2010
Last Revised: 9/18/2010
Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker
Copyright 1994-2011 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

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