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Rash or Redness - Widespread

Is this your symptom?

  • Rash over most of the body (widespread)
  • Sometimes just on hands, feet, and buttocks - but symmetrical
  • Small spots, large spots, or solid red
  • Cause of rash is unknown

Some Basics...

  • Widespread rashes that people may know are: hives, insect bites, and sunburn. If that is the problem, use that Care Guide. If not, use this Care Guide.
  • Many causes of widespread rashes are not serious. Causes include allergic reactions and viruses, like the common cold.
  • Adults with fevers and rashes should talk to their doctor right away. It could be a sign of a serious infection.

When to Call for Rash or Redness - Widespread

Call 911 Now

  • Very weak (can't stand)
  • Purple or blood-colored rash with fever
  • Rash started quickly within the past 2 hours and trouble breathing or swallowing
  • Trouble waking up or acting confused
  • Life-threatening reaction in the past to the same thing (food, insect bite/sting, chemical) and less than 2 hours since exposed
  • You think you have a life-threatening emergency

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • Purple or blood-colored rash (without fever)
  • Rash looks like blisters (fluid-filled bubbles or sacs on the skin)
  • Rash began within 4 hours of taking a new prescription drug
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck (can't touch chin to the chest)
  • Joint pain or swelling
  • Sores in the mouth
  • You feel weak or very sick
  • You think you need to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • You think you need to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • A widespread rash, but none of the problems described above
  • You have other questions or concerns

Care Advice for Widespread Rashes

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Many causes of widespread rashes are not serious.
    • Causes include viruses like a cold. Allergic reactions to a food, drug, plant, or insect bite can also cause rashes.
    • You can treat most widespread rashes at home.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. For Non-Itchy Rashes:
    • No treatment is needed, except for heat rashes.
    • A heat rash can be treated with a cool bath or shower.
  3. For Itchy Rashes:
    • Wash the skin once with gentle, unscented soap to remove any irritants. Rinse the soap off.
    • You may also take an oatmeal (Aveeno) bath to help with the itching. You can also take an antihistamine.
  4. Oatmeal Bath for Itching: Sprinkle contents of one Aveeno packet under warm running water. Bathe for 15 to 20 minutes. Do this 1 to 2 times a day. Pat dry with a towel. Try not to rub.
  5. Antihistamine Drugs for Itching: Take an antihistamine to help with the itching. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is a good choice. It is sold over-the-counter (OTC). The adult dose is 25-50 mg. You can take it up to 4 times a day.
    • Do not take these drugs if you have an enlarged prostate.
    • They may make you feel tired. Do not drink alcohol, drive, or use dangerous machinery while taking antihistamines.
    • An OTC antihistamine that causes less sleepiness is loratadine (Alavert or Claritin).
    • Read all package instructions.
  6. How It Is Spread: Avoid contact with pregnant women until you see a doctor. Most viral rashes can be spread. If you also have a fever, the rash is more likely to spread. Return to school or work after the rash is gone or your doctor says that you can.
  7. What to Expect: Most viral rashes go away within 48 hours.
  8. Call Your Doctor If:
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.

Last Reviewed: 10/19/2019 1:00:30 AM
Last Updated: 3/14/2019 1:00:27 AM

Copyright 2000-2019 Health Navigator, LLC. All rights reserved.

Chickenpox on Abdomen

The Chickenpox rash can occur on all body surfaces.

The rash is no longer contagious when all of the spots are crusted over and no new spots are appearing. This usually takes 7 days from the first appearance of the rash.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

This child's right hand and wrist displays the characteristic spotted rash of Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever is the most severe and most frequently reported rickettsial illness in the United States. The disease is caused by the bacteria Rickettsia rickettsii. The disease is spread by ticks.

Penicillin Rash on the Arm

This patient had a widespread rash from an allergy to penicillin. The picture shows the arm.

Scarlet Fever Rash

The photo shows the typical Scarlet Fever rash on the forearm.

The scarlet fever rash first appears as tiny red bumps on the chest and abdomen that may spread all over the body. Looking like a sunburn, it feels like a rough piece of sandpaper, and lasts about 2-5 days.

Scarlet fever is a disease caused by the same bacteria (Streptococcus) that causes strep throat. A person with Scarlet fever has a throat that is red and sore, usually a fever, usually swollen glands in the neck, and a Scarlet fever rash.

Chickenpox Rash

Chickenpox is an infectious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus resulting in an itchy blister-like rash, tiredness and fever.

It appears first on the trunk and face, but can spread over the entire body causing between 250 and 500 itchy blisters.

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

This photo shows the lower legs of a patient with the typical rash of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

There is a wide spread red rash (red spots). There are also some petechiae (very small red-purple spots that don't blanch when you push on them).

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