Viral rash

Rash, redness, red dots and blisters on the body can have many different explanations – from allergies and fungal infections, to bacteria and viruses. 


A viral rash may appear as small bumps, blisters, or patches in various parts of the body. Various illnesses, such as mononucleosis, chickenpox, sixth disease, and measles, can cause a viral rash. 


Rashes caused by viruses are most common in children and typically go away once the illness has run its course.


APPOTEK can help you with viral rashes.


Many viral infections, especially those that tend to affect toddlers and children, can cause skin rashes. The rash can cover large parts of the body (disseminated) or be confined to a specific area (local).  Here are some common viral infections that cause different skin reactions:


Disseminated viral rash


  • Chickenpox
    Chickenpox is a contagious viral disease characterized by red, itchy rash that forms small, itchy blisters that scab over. The rash usually appears first on the chest or abdomen and can spread throughout the body. Other common symptoms include fever, headache and fatigue. Chickenpox is most common in children. The disease usually passes naturally after a couple of weeks, but if you are in the upper teens or older, you should contact your doctor, because early treatment can reduce the risk of complications.
  • Rubella
    Rubella is an infectious viral disease that usually causes a blue-red or brown skin rash on the face, arms and legs. Other common symptoms include fever, tingling, joint pain and swollen lymph nodes. If you think you have rubella, you should contact a doctor. If you are pregnant, there is a risk that rubella will cause birth defects and therefore it is especially important to seek care.
  • Measles
    Measles is a highly contagious viral disease that starts with fever, cough, runny nose and white ‘Koplik’s spots’ that appear inside the mouth two or three days after the first symptoms. The rash first appears on the face and then spreads to the body. The rash gets darker over time.  If you have measles, you should contact a doctor immediately. The disease can be serious and is sometimes life-threatening.
  • Roseola
    It is a viral disease that usually causes a small, bright red rash on the abdomen and back, sometimes all over the body. Fever after 3 days is followed by a pink rash. Three-day fever generally affects children between six months and two years old. The rash on the body does not usually itch and often disappears after a few days when the fever has dropped.
  • Fifth Disease
    Fifth Disease is a viral disease that can cause redness or rash on the cheeks which then spreads to the arms and legs. Other common symptoms include fever, fatigue, headache, nausea and diarrhea. The disease mainly affects children of school age and the rash usually disappears after a week, but sometimes it takes longer. Adults infected with the fifth disease rarely get a rash – fever, slight cough and joint pain are the most common symptoms in adults. The joint pain may persist for several months.
  • Hand, foot, and mouth disease
    Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a viral infection that causes blisters, mainly in and around the mouth. The blisters can itch and may also be located on the hands and feet. Other common symptoms include poor appetite, fever, sore throat and fatigue. Hand, foot, and mouth disease is most common in children and occurs most frequently in late summer and autumn. The blisters usually disappear after a week.


Local rash


  • Shingles
    Shingles are caused by the same virus as chickenpox and you can only get shingles if you have already had chickenpox. The disease causes a painful skin rash with blisters in a localized area. The blisters look like a belt on the one side of the body. Sometimes they can be located near the eyes and lead to temporary visual impairment. Other common symptoms include fever, headache, dizziness and fatigue. The blisters usually disappear within a few weeks, but you can feel the pain on your skin for months, sometimes longer. Shingles is most common in adults over 50.
  • Medallion disease 
    Medallion disease, also called pityriasis rosea, usually begins with an oval, pink single rash on the upper part of the body, on the arms or thighs. It is then followed by a pink whole body rash. The rash usually scales and can itch. The disease is not contagious and you only get it once. It usually heals itself within six weeks. Medallion disease is most common among children and young adults.
  • Herpes
    Herpes is a common virus that can cause blisters in a small area. But you can also have herpes without getting blisters. Mouth ulcers are the most common symptom of herpes virus. You can also get blisters on other parts of the body, such as genital herpes. Mouth ulcers can be treated with non-prescription drugs, but genital herpes often requires prescription medication.
  • Molluscum contagiosum
    It is a viral infection of the skin that looks like small raised bumps. Children often get lesions on their face, arms, abdomen or neck. The lesions are approx. 2–5 millimeters in size and have a small dimple in the middle. Adults can also get molluscum contagiosum, but mainly in genital area. It usually disappears by itself after six to twelve months.
  • Warts
    There are hundreds of different types of viruses that cause warts. Warts are small, rough growths that usually affect hands or feet. Usually, warts are hard and slightly raised and may sit in clusters. Occasionally, small, clotted blood vessels are seen inside the wart that look like small black dots. Warts are caused by a virus type called HPV (human papillomavirus). There are more than a hundred different types of HPV, but only a few cause warts on the hands and feet. Other types of HPV virus cause, for example, genital or filiform warts. The virus can be spread directly through person to person contact or indirectly by towels or floors in swimming pools and changing rooms. Warts can disappear by themselves, usually within 1-2 years, without treatment. But they can also be treated in several different ways and there are non-prescription medications available at pharmacies.

Other possible explanations

Other possible explanations for rashes include insect bites, drug reactions, hives, eczema caused by food allergies or contact allergy. Some bacterial and fungal infections can also cause a rash. Rosacea causes rash as well.


Sometimes, skin rashes can be one of several symptoms of a more serious illness.

When to consult a doctor

If you don’t know what has caused your rash and are worried about your health, you should contact your healthcare provider.


If you suspect measles or rubella it is very important to consult a doctor – the diseases are very contagious and you should call before going into a clinic, to avoid spreading infection. 


If you have a rash together with a high fever, you should seek urgent care.

How APPOTEK can help

APPOTEK can help you with viral rash. A nurse or a doctor will make an individual assessment based on your symptoms during the consultation. You may then be prescribed medication or referred for further treatment. Since viral rashes can be caused by many different viruses, sometimes a physical examination may be required to make the correct diagnosis.


Valeria Chernikova, Neurologist, M.D.