10 Common Viral Rashes
An infectious rash could be the result of viruses, fungi, or bacteria. People of all ages, including babies, young children, teenagers, and adults are affected. We discuss ten of the most common viral rashes.
- Mononucleosis and the Epstein-Barr Virus
Mononucleosis is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). EBV is among the most common viruses in the world that affect humans. Along with mononucleosis, EBV can lead to viral meningitis, encephalitis, transverse myelitis, optic neuritis, facial nerve palsy, Guillain-Barre syndrome, acute cerebellar ataxia, hemiplegia, sleep disorders, and psychosis.
EBV is transmitted via the saliva through kissing, using the same eating and drinking utensils or sharing food and drink, and even baby drool. However, it is more common among teenagers and adults. It has also been linked to penicillin derivatives in children. Mononucleosis rash presents with small red bumps on the face and trunk or elsewhere. Symptoms include fever, headaches, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, liver and spleen, and extreme fatigue.
The varicella-zoster virus is responsible for chickenpox. Vaccinations have greatly reduced incidences of chickenpox. Although anyone can get it, it is usually a childhood disease. The rash, which first appears on the chest, back, and face, starts as blister-like sores containing fluid. These pop and crust over, forming a scab. The rash can also be found in the mouth. The symptoms of chickenpox are a rash, itching, fever, headaches, fatigue, and loss of appetite.
Chickenpox can cause serious complications, especially in babies, pregnant women, those with weakened immune systems from immunosuppressants, HIV/AIDS, transplant patients, and patients on chemotherapy. These complications include pneumonia, encephalitis, haemorrhaging, cerebellar ataxia, sepsis, dehydration, and death. Children can get bacterial infections that affect their soft tissues and skin, such as Group A streptococcal infections.
Adults are more prone to shingles, which is also caused by the varicella-zoster virus. After contracting chickenpox, the varicella-zoster virus may retreat to the nerve cells, where it
remains inactive. In most people, this is the end of it, but in others the virus is reactivated, leading to shingles. A shingles rash consists of painful red blisters that occur anywhere on the body but mostly appears in a band on one or the other side of the torso, not both. The symptoms of shingles are headaches, fever, and long-lasting nerve pain. The biggest complication of shingles is postherpetic neuralgia, which continues to cause intense pain after the blisters have cleared. Other symptoms are sensitivity to touch on the area of the rash, itching, and numbness.
The morbillivirus is a very contagious virus that causes measles. The best method of prevention is vaccination. The virus is spread by contaminated airborne droplets. Even after an infected person leaves the room, the virus remains and can be transferred. Other methods of contamination are through kissing, holding or shaking hands, hugging, coughing, sneezing, talking, sharing food or drinks, and during pregnancy, delivery, and nursing.
The rash begins behind the ears, spreading to the face, neck, and torso. Initially, the rash consists of flat red spots. After moving down the body, small white spots that are raised cover the red rash. The spots can join together to make a continuous rash. Measles can be life-threatening. Along with the rash, symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, and watery eyes.
German measles differs from ordinary measles. It is caused by the rubella virus. Although the illness is mild, it can cause birth defects in unborn babies, stillbirth, or miscarriage. German measles is transmitted by saliva, coughing, and sneezing. It is easily passed on as it is contagious for the week before the rash appears as well as for a second week thereafter. A German measles rash feels bumpy to the touch. It is made up of pink or light red spots. These may join together, forming coloured patches. The rash is more visible on lighter skin. It starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body over three days. Symptoms include fever, headaches, cough, runny nose, itching, and swollen lymph glands.
Parvovirus B19 is responsible for Fifth disease. This form of parvovirus is specific to people and cannot cross the animal-human barrier. It is more common in children. The rash of Fifth disease resembles a slapped cheek and can spread across the body. The most common symptoms of Fifth disease are headaches, fever, a runny nose, and joint pain (i.e., polyarthropathy syndrome). It is also possible to have no symptoms at all, but it can be diagnosed with a blood test.
Herpesvirus 6 causes roseola infantum, also known as Sixth disease. Sixth disease occurs in babies between six and twelve months old, although 90% of cases are in children less than two years of age. Almost all children will get roseola infantum. Occasionally, adults may contract the disease. The rash consists of flat pink spots that start on the chest, back and stomach. Some of the spots may be circled by a white ring. From here the rash may spread to the limbs and neck. The Sixth disease rash is not itchy. Symptoms are a sudden fever, followed by a cough and decreased appetite.
An infected mosquito causes the West Nile virus. While most people are asymptomatic, 20% of those infected will develop a rash and fever. The rash has both raised and flat pink spots on the torso, arms, and legs. When the West Nile virus is mild, it presents with a rash, headache, fever, fatigue, joint pain, body aches, vomiting, and diarrhoea. However, the disease is sometimes severe and may lead to death. Serious symptoms to watch out for are a very high fever, disorientation, stiff neck, tremors, coma, and paralysis.
Dengue fever is also transmitted by an infected mosquito. Often mild, it can also be a very serious disease. The rash starts as facial flushing with warmth. This develops into flat pink or red spots. In the areas free of spots, pinpoint spots appear that bleed. The second rash occurs between three to seven days after the fever. Symptoms of dengue fever are rash; fever; nausea; vomiting; muscle, joint, and bone pain; and pain behind the eyes. Severe dengue has additional symptoms which include abdominal pain, bleeding from the nose and gums, and blood in vomit and stools.
- Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease
Viruses from the enterovirus family cause hand, foot, and mouth disease. As the name suggests, these are the areas where the rash appears. Other sites include the genitals, buttocks, knees, and elbows. The rash involves painful blisters at the back of the mouth and a skin rash that consists of red to purple spots or blisters. While highly contagious, the infection is usually mild. Coming into contact with fluids from an infected person’s saliva, mucus, faeces, and rash blisters can spread the disease. Symptoms include rash, headache, fever, mouth sores, flu-like symptoms, sore throat, no appetite, and malaise. You can get more information on hand foot and mouth disease from Patient. Patient advises on multiple diseases from skin conditions to migraines. All the articles are written by medical doctors.
Overall, two types of rashes occur: infectious and non-infectious. We have looked at some of the more common infectious rashes, what causes them, and their symptoms.
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