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 Now or Go to ER

  • 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 (cannot touch chin to 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 information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.


Last Reviewed: 12/15/2017 1:32:54 AM
Last Updated: 5/7/2017 1:36:16 PM

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