Pityriasis Rosea

Pityriasis rosea is a type of skin rash. It starts with one large round or oval scaly patch called the herald patch, and then many more smaller patches appear 2 to 14 days later. The rash most often starts on the chest, back, or belly, but then can spread to the extremities. If you have light-colored skin, the rash is often pink. If you have dark skin, the rash may look purple or brown in color. It can take 1 to 2 months to go away.

Pityriasis rosea is a harmless noncontagious rash. The exact cause is unknown, although it may be connected to a viral infection. It's not an allergic reaction or a fungal infection. Although anyone can get it, it's most often seen in children and young adults ages 10 to 35.

If you're pregnant and develop pityriasis rosea, it may increase your risk of miscarriage. Be sure to talk with your healthcare provider.

This condition often goes away on its own without treatment in 2 weeks.  In some people it may take 6 to 8 weeks to clear up. Once it’s gone, it usually doesn’t come back.

If your healthcare provider isn't sure about your diagnosis, you may need skin scrapings, a skin biopsy, or blood tests.

Home care

  • Hot temperatures and hot water can make the rash and itching worse. Avoid hot weather when possible. Use cool or lukewarm water when bathing or showering.

  • Use fragrance-free products.

  • Exposure to natural sunlight helps some people. It may help fade the rash, but doesn't seem to help the itching. Don't overdo it in the sun, as your skin may be more sensitive than normal. You don’t want to burn yourself. Artificial sun lamps, sun beds, and tanning salons are not advised.

  • This condition is not contagious. Your child may attend daycare or school while the rash is present.

Medicines

Talk with your healthcare provider before using any medicines. All medicines have side effects.

  • Moisturizing skin creams may help dry skin.

  • For itchiness, you can use over-the-counter 1% hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion 2 to 3 times a day.

  • Over-the-counter antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine, may also help with the itching. But they can make you sleepy. Read the information on the packaging before using the medicine.

  • Avoid anti-fungal creams and lotions. They may make the rash worse.

  • If your symptoms are severe or last a long time, your healthcare provider may prescribe oral or topical (such as creams or ointments) steroids.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. Call your provider if the itching isn't controlled by the above suggestions, or if the rash lasts longer than 3 months.

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • You develop a rash and are pregnant

  • Severe itching

  • Signs of skin infection (increasing redness, pus leaking, yellow-brown scabs)

  • Fever or other symptoms of a new illness

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