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Viral Skin Rashes

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

While on the topic of skin, let’s talk about viral rashes in kids. As every parent knows, your child will get several 100 or is it 1,000 viruses during their 18 years at home with you. Most of these viral infections present with typical fever, runny nose, cough and are more common during the winter months, and more frequent in the younger child. We are in the thick of these now.

What we also often see in kids are viral rashes (exanthems) that seem to appear as the other viral symptoms are resolving. It is not unusual to see a child who has had several days of fever develop a blotchy, red, flat rash on their body (not purple or bruise like) which doesn’t seem to bother the child at all. The rash is not itchy, and may even come and go. This is often concerning to a parent as people say, “maybe it is the measles or chickenpox.” The biggest distinguishing factor with a post viral rash is just that, it is later in the course of the illness and is actually appearing as you child is improving, all the more confusing for a parent.

Measles and chickenpox are still present in the U.S. and worldwide. Unfortunately, due to decreasing immunization rates in some areas, outbreaks of chickenpox and measles have recently been reported. But in the case of these illnesses the rash occurs early in the course of the illness, along with the other symptoms. Children with both measles and chickenpox appear ill and the rash starts early and continues throughout.

If your child has a fever and a rash at the beginning of an illness give your doctor a call to discuss the symptoms and appearance of the rash and whether they should be seen. But a rash that occurs late in the illness is often just the tale end of the virus and by then your child should be feeling better, not worse. In most cases of a post viral rash, the rash will disappear over the next several days and the child is good to go (until the next virus finds their prey!)

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

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