viral rashWhile the most common symptoms of coronavirus remain flu-like (fever, dry cough, fatigue and congestion), researchers have uncovered a new tell-tale sign in some COVID-19 patients that appears on the skin. Dermatologists and patients alike are now being asked to look out for a viral exanthem that sometimes accompanies other symptoms of the infection.

The specialists at RI Skin Doc and Rejuvaderm want our patients to stay informed about all symptoms of COVID-19, especially those that may affect the skin. Read below to learn more about the rash and the symptoms you should be looking for:

What is a viral exanthem? 

An exanthem is a rash or eruption on the skin, usually occurring as a symptom of a viral infection. Many viruses are associated with exanthem, especially in childhood: chickenpox, measles, rubella and certain types of herpes are all known to cause exanthems to appear. The rash is caused by an immune response to the infection, damage to the skin due to the infection, or a reaction to a toxin carried by the infection.

What signs of viral exanthem should I be looking for?

 A viral exanthem is usually a widespread rash that appears pink and may include raised bumps. The rash may also be painful or itchy, and it will usually appear on the trunk area and spread to the arms, legs and face. The exanthem associated with COVID-19 is usually accompanied by a fever and throat discomfort, so be especially aware if you or someone you live with is displaying a combination of these symptoms.

How can I find short-term relief for this rash?

In many cases, viral rashes will not cause any pain or itching at all, and will subside when the associated fever breaks or when the virus clears up. However, if your skin is feeling uncomfortable, there are steps you or your loved one can take to find short-term relief regardless of the underlying cause of the exanthem:

  • Try to avoid scratching the rash.
  • Apply a cool compress.
  • Use calamine lotion on your skin.

Is this rash a common symptom of coronavirus? 

It remains unclear to researchers how many patients who are positive for COVID-19 will exhibit the rash. However, dermatologist Dr. Bobby Buka in New York City states, “If someone comes in with fever and rash in this current environment, certainly we have a very high index of suspicion for COVID-19.” Exanthema is not contagious; however, as a symptom of a virus, whatever underlying condition is causing the rash most likely is. If you or someone in your household is showing signs of the rash along with other symptoms of coronavirus, especially after recent travel, call your primary care provider before entering a healthcare environment as outlined in the Rhode Island Department of Health’s COVID-19 guidelines.

With safety as our main objective, RI Skin Doc and Rejuvaderm MediSpa have followed direction from local, state, and city governments to temporarily close. We plan to resume normal business hours on Monday, April 6th.

If you would like more information on COVID-19 and associated state guidelines, please visit the resources provided by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Rhode Island Department of Health.