Viral Skin Rash

A viral skin rash is one of the commonest causes of a skin rash in infants and toddlers. Most children will have a least on viral rash in their early years.

This page answers these questions:

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What is a Viral Rash?

Viral skin rash

A viral rash is usually a pink or red rash caused by a virus. Red or pink rashes are called erythematous rashes. There are many different viruses - some cause a characteristic rash, like parvovirus or measles, and some just cause a non-specific red rash.

This page deals with non-specific skin rashes caused by viruses.

There is no typical pattern - they may be just a faint pink rash or a more extensive red rash. The key thing is that the rash blanches (goes white) with pressure. The glass test is a good test because as you press on the rash with the glass you can see the rash disappear through the glass.

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Why does my baby have so many red rashes?

Babies and toddlers get frequent viral infections and many of these will cause a rash. Don't worry - your child is building up his immunity all the time and this is just part of the process. To read more about common viral infections in children, click here

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What does a Viral Rash look like?

It is usually red (erythematous) and it blanches on pressure - so pushing on the rash with a glass makes the rash disappear.

viral skin rash backViral rash on back
viral rash glass testBlanches with pressure

The rash can be red spots which feel slightly raised touch. Sometimes, the rash spots seem to join together to form one big red area.

viral rash abdomenViral rash on abdomen
RedRash on backViral rash on back

The photo on the left shows faint red spots on the back - a characteristic viral skin rash in a baby. The right photo shows a more florid erythematous rash on the back, also caused by a virus. Both rashes blanch when pressure is applied (see top right photo).

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Is a Viral Rash Itchy?

It isn't usually that itchy. If your child has a very itchy red rash, he could have urticaria which is an allergic rash - read more.

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What can I do for to treat the rash?

There is no treatment. The rash will disappear when the body removes the virus from its system.

If the rash is dry, you can apply a moisturizer to make the skin softer which will be more comfortable for your child. Use moisturizers that are unperfumed and plain.

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When should I get medical help?

Seek medical attention if:

  • the rash does not blanch on pressure - ie. is a petechial rash - read more
  • the rash is very itchy - your child may need antihistamines for urticaria - read more
  • your child is unwell and you are concerned he has a serious illness - to read about signs of serious illness, click here

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To go to the top of the Viral Skin Rash page, click here

To go to the main Skin Rash page, click here

To read about Signs of Serious Illness, click here

To return to the Home page, click here


Last reviewed 20 September 2011

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Dr Maud MD

Dr Maud MD (MBChB, FRACP, FRCPCH), a specialist pediatrician, provides health information and medical advice for parents of babies and toddlers. Read more about Dr Maud.



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