This image displays typical pink to red elevations of the skin and non-scaling, slightly elevated lesions on a patient with a viral exanthem. On a person with a viral exanthem, the pink to red, slightly elevated lesions on the skin can become widespread. This image displays widespread flat and raised skin lesions that are red or pink in color typical of viral skin rashes. This image displays pink areas typical of viral exanthem. This image displays how a viral rash with tiny blisters may affect the mucous membranes (see the lips). Widespread red or pink spots and patches, which may or may not be itchy, are typical of a viral rash. This viral rash shows overall redness of the trunk as well as prominence of the hair follicles (above the nipple area). This child has numerous small, red bumps typical of a viral exanthem. This image displays how some lesions from viral exanthem may develop into blisters. This image displays how sun exposure worsens a viral rash, as in this child on the upper back. In rare cases, viral exanthems may display multiple tiny pus-filled lesions. The small pink bumps of a viral exanthem may be harder to see on people with darker skin.
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Viral Exanthem  A parent's guide to condition and treatment information

Picture of Viral Exanthem: This image displays typical pink to red elevations of the skin and non-scaling, slightly elevated lesions on a patient with a viral exanthem. Divider line
This image displays typical pink to red elevations of the skin and non-scaling, slightly elevated lesions on a patient with a viral exanthem.
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Overview
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.
Self-Care Guidelines
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.



References

Bolognia, Jean L., ed. Dermatology, pp.1255-1259. New York: Mosby, 2003.

Freedberg, Irwin M., ed. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 6th ed. pp.2099-2101. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.
Last Updated: 22 Dec 2008