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  • Rash or Redness – Widespread


    • Rash over large parts or most of the body (widespread)
    • Sometimes, just on hands, feet and buttocks – but same on both sides of body
    • Red or pink rash
    • Small spots, large spots or solid red skin


    • Main cause: a 2 or 3 day rash that’s part of a viral illness. Your child may also have a fever with some diarrhea or cold symptoms. Viral rashes usually have pink spots. They occur on both sides the chest, stomach and back.
    • Other common causes: 5 rashes that you may be able to recognize. These are listed in the “See Other Care Guide” section. If you suspect one of them, go there. If not, use this guide.

    Drugs and 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.
    • Drug rashes can’t be diagnosed over the phone.

    Roseola – A Classic Rash

    • Most children get Roseola between 6 months and 3 years of age.
    • Rash: Pink, small, flat spots on the chest and stomach. Then spreads to the face.
    • Classic feature: 2 or 3 days of high fever without a rash or other symptoms.
    • The rash starts 12 to 24 hours after the fever goes away.
    • The rash lasts 1 to 3 days.
    • By the time the rash appears, the child feels fine.
    • Treatment: The rash is harmless. Creams or medicines are not needed.

    Return to School

    • 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.

    When to Call Us for Rash or Redness – Widespread

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

    • Purple or blood-colored rash with fever Trouble breathing or swallowing Not moving or too weak to stand
    • You think your child has a life-threatening emergency

    Call Us 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 the lips Taking a prescription medication within the last 3 days Fever Your daughter is having her period and using tampons
    • You think your child needs to be seen urgently

    Call Us Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If:

    • Widespread rash, but none of the symptoms above. Reason: All widespread rashes need to be checked by a doctor.

    Care Advice for Widespread Rashes. (Use this until you talk with your doctor.)

    What You Should Know:

    • Most pink rashes all over are part of a viral illness.
    • This is more likely if your child has other symptoms. This can be a cold, cough, diarrhea or fever.
    • Some are just a heat rash.
    • Here is some care advice that should help until you talk with your doctor.

    For Non-Itchy Rashes:

    • If you suspect a heat rash, give a cool bath.
    • Otherwise, no treatment is needed.

    For Itchy Rashes:

    • Wash the skin once with soap to remove any irritants.
    • Steroid Cream. For relief of itching, use 1% hydrocortisone cream on the most itchy areas. No prescription is needed. Do this 3 times per day.
    • Cool Bath. For flare-ups of itching, give your child a cool bath. Do not use soap. Do this for 10 minutes. (Caution: Avoid any chill). Option: Can add 2 ounces (60 ml) of baking soda per tub.


    • For fevers above 102° F (39° C), give acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen. See Dose Table. Note: Lower fevers are important for fighting infections.
    • For ALL fevers: Keep your child well hydrated. Give lots of cold fluids.
    • For babies, dress lightly. Don’t wrap in too many blankets. Reason: Can make the fever higher.

    Return to School:

    • If your child has a fever, avoid contact with other children. Avoid pregnant women until a diagnosis is made.
    • Most viral rashes can be spread to others (especially if a fever is present).
    • Your child can return to school after the rash is gone. If your doctor has given medical clearance, your child can return sooner.

    What to Expect:

    • Most viral rashes go away within 48 hours.

    Call Your Doctor If:

    • Your child becomes worse

    Disclaimer: This information is not intended 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.

    Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
    Copyright 1994-2013 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

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