Rash or Redness - Widespread
Chickenpox on Abdomen
- 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
- 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 your doctor
Call 911 Now (you may need an ambulance) If
- 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 Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
- You feel weak or very sick
- Purple or blood-colored rash without fever
- Bright red skin that peels off in sheets
- Bright red, sunburn-like rash after wound infection or recent surgery
- Bright red, sunburn-like rash after tampon use or nasal packing
- Rash looks like blisters (fluid-filled bubbles or sacs on the skin)
- Rash began within 4 hours of taking a new prescription drug
- Stiff neck (cannot touch chin to chest)
- Joint pain or swelling
- Sores in the mouth
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
- A widespread rash, but none of the problems described above
CARE ADVICE FOR WIDESPREAD RASHES (While Waiting to Talk to Your Doctor)
- 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.
- For Non-Itchy Rashes:
- No treatment is needed, except for heat rashes.
- A heat rash can be treated with a cool bath or shower.
- 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.
- Oatmeal Bath for Itching: Sprinkle contents of one Aveeno packet under warm running water. Bathe for 15-20 minutes. Do this 1-2 times a day. Pat dry with a towel. Try not to rub.
- 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, drive, or use dangerous machinery while taking antihistamines.
- An OTC antihistamine that causes less sleepiness is loratadine (Alavert or Claritin).
- Read all package instructions.
- 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.
- What to Expect: Most viral rashes go away within 48 hours.
- Call Your Doctor If:
- You get worse
Author: David A. Thompson, M.D.
Last reviewed: 9/1/2012
Last revised: 10/31/2012 9:18:05 AM