A viral exanthem is a rash caused by a viral infection. Many viruses can cause a similar-appearing rash, so it is difficult to tell which one is the culprit. Your child's age, duration of illness, and other symptoms may suggest which virus in the cause. Airway (respiratory) and stomach (gastrointestinal) viruses are common causes of such a rash.
Who's At Risk
Viral exanthem is common in children who may not yet have developed immunity to common viral infections.
Signs and Symptoms
A rash all over (widespread) of pink-to-red spots or bumps occurs primarily on the trunk, arms, and legs. It may or may not be itchy. Sometimes, the person does not feel well and might have fever, fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, aches and pains, and irritability.
For people with only mild symptoms, no treatment is required, as the rash and illness often last for only a few days and go away on their own. However, you might try:
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprofen for low fever and aches and pains. DO NOT USE aspirin.
- Bed rest and plenty of liquids.
When to Seek Medical Care
See your child's doctor if he or she has any of the following:
- Fever with a temperature over 101 degrees that lasts more than a day
- Severe headache, stiff neck, confusion, unconsciousness, or seizures
- Diarrhea and/or vomiting, severe abdominal pain
- Severe cough or sputum with pus or blood
- Spots, swelling, and redness on the palms or soles; blisters; swollen and painful joints
- Red eyes, mouth, or tongue
- Rash that is bright red and does not fade (blanch) with finger pressure
Treatments Your Physician May Prescribe
The doctor may do blood tests or cultures to look for more serious causes of such a rash.
If a serious bacterial or other infection is suspected, antibiotics may be given.
Bolognia, Jean L., ed. Dermatology
, pp.1255-1259. New York: Mosby, 2003.
Freedberg, Irwin M., ed. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine
ed. pp.2099-2101. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.