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Children's Health

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Bacterial and Viral Rashes

Life-Threatening Rashes

Life-threatening rashes are uncommon, and your child usually appears quite ill if he or she has a life-threatening rash. If you suspect your child may have a life-threatening rash, you should go to your hospital's emergency department immediately or call 911.

Fever and Petechiae

These two symptoms accompany many rashes and are often signs of a more serious condition. Children can develop petechiae -- red dots on the skin that do not fade when pressure is applied -- from a number of causes. It is not unusual for forceful coughing or vomiting to cause petechiae on the face and chest. Petechiae with fever is more concerning. While most of these children have a viral illness that does not require any therapy. A small percentage (2%-7%) may have diseases that need immediate evaluation. Any child with a fever and petechiae should be seen by a doctor immediately.

  • Symptoms
    • Petechiae are red dots on the skin that do not fade when pressure is applied. The dots represent bleeding from the capillaries leaving a small, temporary blood blister in the skin.
    • Children with petechiae may appear healthy or very ill.
  • Treatment
    • Petechiae resolve completely without any treatment. However, a doctor should evaluate your child to determine that a serious disease process is not present.
    • Your child may need blood tests and x-rays to find the cause of the petechiae and fever.
    • Occasionally, a child also requires a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to be sure meningitis is not the cause of the fever and petechiae.


Also called, meningococcal sepsis, meningococcemia is a life-threatening bacterial invasion of the blood by bacteria called Neisseria meningitidis. This disease is seen primarily in the winter and spring in children younger than 2 years. Meningococcemia is spread from the nose and mouth of other people. Good hygiene and hand washing can help decrease the risk of transmission. Children exposed to people with this disease need to be evaluated by their doctor and possibly be put on antibiotics to protect them from getting the disease. (Other bacteria such as Haemophilus influenzae, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Staphylococcus aureus can cause similar syndromes.)

  • Symptoms
    • Fever and a petechial rash are present.
    • Headache, congestion, nausea, vomiting, and muscle aches may also occur.
    • The rash may start out as small bumps or raised blisters but develop into petechiae.
    • Petechiae are broken capillaries in the skin that cause red dots that do not disappear when pressure is applied to the skin.
  • Treatment
    • Take a child with the symptoms of meningococcemia to your hospital's emergency department immediately.
    • Blood tests, including blood cultures, may be needed, as may x-rays and a spinal tap, to fully evaluate your child
    • Meningococcemia is treated in the hospital with IV antibiotics. Intensive care therapy may also be required.
    • Meningococcus can be fatal even with appropriate antibiotic therapy. Early diagnosis and treatment with close observation are required.

Rocky Mountain spotted fever

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