RASHES, WIDESPREAD AND CAUSE UNKNOWN

Symptom Definition

  • Rash over most of the body (widespread or generalized)
  • Occasionally just on hands, feet, and buttocks - but symmetrical
  • Small spots, large spots, or solid red
  • Cause of rash is unknown

General Information

  • Three widespread rashes that individuals may be able to recognize are: hives, insect bites, and sunburn. If present, use that topic. If not, use this topic.
  • An adult with fever and rash should seek medical attention immediately. A number of serious infections present in this manner.

See More Appropriate Topic (instead of this one) If


WHEN TO CALL YOUR DOCTOR FOR RASHES WIDESPREAD AND CAUSE UNKNOWN

Call 911 Now (you may need an ambulance) If:

  • Very weak (can't stand)
  • Purple or blood-colored rash with fever
  • Sudden onset of rash (within past 2 hours) and also has difficulty with breathing or swallowing
  • Difficult to awaken or acting confused

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 either wound infection, recent surgery, or tampon use
  • Rash looks like large or small blisters (i.e. fluid-filled bubbles or sacs on the skin)
  • Rash beginning within 4 hours of a new prescription medication
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck (unable to touch chin to chest)
  • Joint pain or swelling
  • Sores also present in mouth

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If:

  • A widespread rash, but none of the symptoms described above

HOME CARE ADVICE FOR WIDESPREAD RASHES (pending talking with your doctor)

  1. Reassurance: There are many causes of widespread rashes and most of the time they are not serious. Common causes include viral illness (e.g. cold viruses) and allergic reactions (to a food, medicine, or environmental exposure).
  2. For Non-Itchy Rashes: No treatment is necessary, except for heat rashes, which respond to cool baths.
  3. For Itchy Rashes: Wash the skin once with soap to remove any irritants.  Use Benadryl or take an Aveeno bath to reduce the itching.
  4. Benadryl for Itching: Take an antihistamine (e.g. diphendryamine/Benadryl) for widespread rashes that itch. The adult dosage of Benadryl is 25-50 mg by mouth 4 times daily.
    • Do not take antihistamine medications such as Benadryl if you have prostate enlargement.
    • Antihistamines may cause sleepiness. Do not drink, drive or operate dangerous machinery while taking antihistamines.
    • Read the package instructions thoroughly on all medications that you take.
  5. Oatmeal Aveeno Bath for Itching: Sprinkle contents of one Aveeno packet under running faucet with comfortably warm water. Bathe for 15 - 20 minutes, 1-2 times daily. Pat dry with a towel - do not rub.
  6. Contagiousness: Avoid contact with pregnant women until a diagnosis is made. Most viral rashes are contagious (especially if a fever is present). Your can return to work or school after the rash is gone or when your doctor says it's safe to return with the rash.
  7. Expected Course: Most viral rashes disappear within 48 hours.
  8. Call Your Doctor If:
    • You become worse or develop any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended 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.

Adult HouseCalls Online. Copyright © 2000-2004 David Thompson, M.D. FACEP

Reviewed 8/2004

Revised 7/2002

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