Springdale Mason Pediatrics

Viral Rash

Definition

  • A pink rash that is all over the body
  • The rash is part of a viral illness

Call or Return If

  • Fever lasts more than 3 days
  • Rash lasts more than 4 days
  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Your child becomes worse

About This Topic

Symptoms

  • Viral rashes usually have small pink spots.
  • They occur on both sides of the body. Usually start on the chest, stomach and back.
  • A fever can also be present.
  • Other viral symptoms sometimes occur. Diarrhea is more common than cold symptoms. Sometimes, the child just is not acting right for a few days.

Causes

  • Many viruses cause non-specific rashes. A common one is the Coxsackie virus.
  • Viral rashes are more common with summer viruses.

Viral Rashes and Drug Rashes

  • Prescription medicines sometimes cause widespread rashes.
  • Non-prescription (OTC) medicines rarely cause any rashes.
  • Most rashes that occur while taking an OTC medicine are viral rashes.
  • Fever medicines (acetaminophen and ibuprofen) cause the most confusion. Reason: Most viral rashes start with a fever. Hence, the child is taking a fever medicine when the rash starts. But the fever medicine had nothing to do with the rash.

Prevention of Spread to Others

  • Good hand washing can prevent spread of infection.

After Care Advice

Overview:
  • Most pink rashes all over are part of a viral illness.
  • This is more likely if your child also has a fever. Other symptoms such as diarrhea or a cold point to a viral rash.
  • These rashes are harmless and go away on their own.
  • Here is some care advice that should help.
For Non-Itchy Viral Rashes:
  • No treatment is needed or helpful.
For Itchy Viral Rashes:
  • Most viral rashes are not itchy. If your child's rash is itchy, here are some tips.
  • Moisturizing Cream. Use a moisturizing cream once or twice daily. Examples are Eucerin or Cetaphil creams. Apply the cream after a 5 or 10-minute bath. (Reason: Water-soaked skin feels less itchy). Avoid all soaps. (Reason: soaps, especially bubble bath, make the skin dry and itchy).
  • Steroid Cream. For relief of severe itching, use 1% hydrocortisone cream on the most itchy areas. No prescription is needed. Do this 3 times per day.
Other Symptoms:
  • Treat any other viral symptoms (such as diarrhea) in the usual way.
Fever:
  • For fevers above 102° F (39° C), give acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen. Note: Lower fevers are important for fighting infections.
  • For ALL fevers: Keep your child well hydrated. Give lots of cold fluids.
What to Expect:
  • Most viral rashes go away in 2-3 days.
Return to School:
  • If your child has a fever, avoid contact with other children. Also try to avoid contact with pregnant women.
  • Most viral rashes cannot be spread to others once the fever is gone.
  • For minor rashes, your child can return after the FEVER is gone.
  • For major rashes, your child can return after the RASH is gone. If your doctor has given medical clearance to return, can go back sooner.

Author: Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP
Copyright 2000-2020 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC
Disclaimer: This health information is for educational purposes only. You the reader assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
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