Viral Exanthem

Viral exanthem is a medical term used for describing skin rashes, often triggered by pre-existing infections by viruses. The viruses may be those that cause diseases like chickenpox, rubella, roseola, measles, fifth disease, and hand-foot-mouth disease. It is also referred to as ‘non-specific viral rash.’

Most cases of viral exanthem are accompanied by systemic symptoms such as fever, headache, tiredness, malaise, etc. The rash and symptoms can also occur as a result of secondary skin damage caused by the germs, their toxins, or response of the immune system.

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Children and early teens with immune systems that are not fully developed are more prone to viral exanthem skin rash. Adults may also suffer from it, primarily as a drug reaction. Viral exanthem can be contagious if the causative infectious condition is also contagious.

Treatment is dependent on the underlying cause and primarily involves drug therapy, self-care measures, and home remedies.

Symptoms of viral exanthem

Viral exanthem may occur with many different symptoms and most of them are signs of the underlying causative infection. Patients may experience the below listed signs and symptoms:

  • Rash on skin composed of pink or reddish spots, bumps, or patches; the rash may cover a large area
  • General feeling of being unwell
  • Fever
  • Aches, pains
  • Appetite reduction or loss
  • Lethargy, tiredness, or fatigue
  • Headache
  • Flushed face
  • Irritability
  • Chest and/or nose congestion
  • Strawberry tongue
  • Runny nose
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Redness or sore throat
  • Coughing
  • The rash is typically not itchy
  • Viral exanthem generally affects the upper and lower limbs and the torso
  • Severe instances may be marked by formation of large welts or ulcers which ooze. It may cause itchiness. The tissue underneath may be exposed to external elements

In case the below listed symptoms are noticed, then patients must immediately visit a doctor:

  • Fever with 2 or more incidents of body temperature of above 100 degrees each day
  • Convulsions/seizures
  • Extreme stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Unconsciousness, fainting, confusion
  • Redness or oral cavity, tongue, and/or eyes
  • Joint pain and/or swelling
  • Stiff neck
  • Intense headache
  • The soles or palms may be swollen or feature redness, blistering, or abnormal spots
  • Excessive coughing with bloody or pus-containing sputum
  • Skin rash with bright red hue which does not disappear even after application of pressure on it

Causes of viral exanthem

Viral exanthem occurs as a symptom of different viral infections such as:

  • Chickenpox
  • Roseola
  • Staph infection
  • Measles
  • Rubella
  • Scarlet fever
  • Fifth disease/erythema infectiosum
  • Hand-foot- and-mouth disease
  • Infection by respiratory or stomach viruses

Treatment of viral exanthem

Viral exanthem is treated as per the causative viral infection. In most cases, the rash disappears on its own in about 9-10 days, and hence treatment is generally not needed. For severe instances, healing may take about 14 days or more.

Doctors may prescribe medicines to find relief viral exanthem symptoms like fever, pain, and itching, etc. Drugs may also be given for treating underlying causative illnesses.

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  • Patients may ease pain and itching via application of topical steroids or creams. It also helps reduce inflammation and offers immediate easement.
  • Mild itching can be eased with anti-itch ointments and/or calamine lotions. These should not be used on open oozing sores
  • Severe itchiness can be alleviated with antihistamine tablets
  • OTC/prescription NSAIDs are helpful in finding relief from swelling, fever, pain, and inflammation.
  • Viral exanthem patients younger than 18 years must not take aspirin as it can cause fatal brain and liver complications

Viral exanthem home remedies and self-care guidelines are as follows:

  • Take adequate bed rest for quick healing and gaining back your strength
  • Keep the body hydrated by drink sufficient amounts of water and other liquids
  • Dry skin can cause itching. Avoid dryness of skin by using moisturizers
  • Frequent lukewarm water showers can help keep the skin clean and prevent worsening of viral exanthem rash
  • Wash the affected skin areas with a mild soap 2 or more times every day
  • Baths in oatmeal or baking soda mixed lukewarm water can help make the skin soft. This will help decrease skin irritation and itchiness
  • Wear loose cotton (or of other breathable fabrics) clothes to prevent skin irritation
  • Sweating can worsen skin itchiness. Hence stay indoors in air-conditioned or cool surroundings.
  • Scratching the skin rash to find relief from itching can damage the skin and cause it to tear open and become wounds. Breaks on skin are vulnerable to secondary infections by bacteria and other pathogens. Therefore, do not scratch viral exanthem skin rashes.
    • Parents should trim fingernails of children with the skin rash. The hands may be covered with gloves or socks when they are asleep. Use antiseptic soaps to wash their hands.

Viral Exanthem Rash – Pictures

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