Is a Rash a Sign of COVID-19?

Medically Reviewed By Megan Soliman, MD
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There are many symptoms of COVID-19. The most common are cough, fatigue, and fever. However, many people report experiencing a rash as a result of COVID-19 as well.

All data and statistics are based on data that were publicly available at the time of publication. Some information may be outdated. For up-to-date information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

This article will talk about rash as a sign of COVID-19. It will also discuss treatments for the rash, when to contact a doctor, and other symptoms of COVID-19.

Is a rash a sign of COVID-19?

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The list of COVID-19 symptoms grew a lot since its initial worldwide spread in 2020. One symptom that doctors still do not fully understand is the rash some people seem to develop.

Many conditions like chickenpox or measles have a distinctive rash that is easily diagnosable. COVID-19, however, is different. There is no one distinguishable rash associated with COVID-19.

Many people who have COVID-19 never develop a rash. However, if you do develop a rash with COVID-19, it may appear as any of the following:

  • patches
  • itchy bumps
  • blisters similar to chickenpox
  • round, pinpoint spots
  • large patch with several smaller ones
  • lace-like pattern
  • flat spots and raised bumps that connect to each other

How long does the rash last?

Experts are still researching the rash that can appear with COVID-19. However, initial cases showed that the rash typically only lasts 2­–12 days. Many people see the rash clear in under 8 days.

What are the treatments for a COVID rash?

If you have a new or unexplainable rash, contacting your doctor is a good idea. There are many common causes of rashes that may appear similar to a COVID rash that may require medical treatment.

The only way you can know for sure that your rash may be due to COVID-19 is to take a COVID test.

Speak with your doctor before treating your rash at home. Some ways you can manage your COVID rash at home include:

  • placing a cold compress on the affected area
  • sitting in warm oatmeal baths
  • using over-the-counter (OTC) creams, like hydrocortisone or calamine lotion
  • taking antihistamines
  • avoiding scratching, as this can lead to infection

Can you get a rash from the COVID-19 vaccine?

You can develop a rash after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. There are two possible causes for this.

Allergic reaction

Severe allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccinations are rare. It is possible for you to experience either a severe or nonsevere allergic reaction, however.

Here is how to tell the difference between nonsevere and severe allergic reactions:

  • Nonsevere reactions: These reactions may have an onset within 4 hours of receiving the vaccine. Experts consider them immediate reactions, but medical professionals do not usually classify them as severe because they do not include the required symptoms. Nonsevere reactions may include swelling, itching, and wheezing.
  • Severe reactions: Experts consider severe allergic reactions medical emergencies. If you receive a COVID-19 vaccine and experience any symptoms of a severe reaction, get medical care right away. These symptoms include:
    • difficulty breathing
    • drop in blood pressure
    • tongue or throat swelling
    • rash or hives

If you have a nonsevere reaction to the vaccine, it may still be possible for you to receive a second dose or a booster. Talk with your doctor to make the most informed decision.

If you experience a severe reaction to a particular vaccine, the CDC recommends you do not receive any more doses of that vaccine. However, you may be able to receive booster doses of a different type of vaccine. Consult with your doctor to see if you can receive one of the other vaccines.

Delayed rash at the injection site

Some people experience a rash at the injection site of the COVID-19 vaccine a few days or more than a week after receiving it. Experts commonly refer to this as “COVID arm.” These rashes are typically:

  • itchy
  • painful
  • red or discolored
  • swollen

You can treat the itchiness of the rash with antihistamines, and the pain with OTC pain relief medications. The CDC still recommends getting your second dose and booster doses of the vaccine if you experience COVID arm. They suggest that you may want to receive the next dose in the opposite arm, however.

Learn what you need to know about COVID-19 boosters.

When should you contact a doctor for a COVID rash?

Whether your rash is due to COVID-19 or any other cause, there are certain symptoms that are best not to ignore. Contact your doctor right away if you have a rash that:

  • appears all over your body
  • occurs with a fever
  • spreads rapidly
  • begins blistering
  • feels painful
  • shows symptoms of infection, such as:
    • yellow or green discharge
    • swollen and crusty areas
    • warmth in the affected area
    • red streaks coming from the rash

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is a condition when certain parts of the body become inflamed. The parts of the body the syndrome can affect include the:

  • brain
  • skin
  • heart
  • lungs
  • kidneys
  • eyes
  • gastrointestinal organs

MIS-C is a potentially serious condition. Experts have seen in children who had COVID-19 or were around someone with COVID-19. Though the exact relationship between MIS-C and COVID-19 is not yet known.

Not all children with MIS-C will experience the same symptoms. However, contact your doctor right away if your child has an ongoing fever along with any of the following symptoms:

What are the other symptoms of COVID-19?

There is a wide range of symptoms associated with COVID-19. Most symptoms appear between 2 and 14 days after you come in contact with the virus that causes COVID-19, called SARS-CoV-2. You may experience mild or severe symptoms.

Some main symptoms of COVID-19 include:

Learn 10 things to know about COVID-19 variants.

Summary

There are many symptoms of COVID-19. Some people report experiencing a rash along with other symptoms.

The reason why some people experience a rash and others do not is not yet known. Many other conditions can cause a rash that looks similar. If you have a new and unexplained rash, contact your doctor. The only way to know for sure if your rash may be from COVID-19 is to take a COVID test.

It is also possible to experience a rash after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. If you have a mild rash that begins within a few days to a week after receiving the vaccine, you can generally still receive another dose.

However, if you experience symptoms of a severe reaction right after receiving the vaccine, get immediate medical care. It is a good idea not to receive another dose of that vaccine.

If you have a rash that worsens suddenly or shows symptoms of infection, contact your doctor.

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Medical Reviewer: Megan Soliman, MD
Last Review Date: 2022 Jul 15
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.