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Generalized Rashes in Children

A generalized rash is widespread and covers most of the body or is found on several parts of the body. It may appear in the same place on both hands, feet, arms, or legs.

Generalized rashes without other symptoms are usually caused by minor problems, such as dry skin or contact dermatitis, and occur after contact with soap, detergent, or fabric. Many generalized rashes will go away with home treatment.

Many different viruses can cause a generalized rash. Often when a virus is the cause of a rash, the specific virus that caused the rash is not known. When this is the case, the virus is called a nonspecific virus.

Other viruses that are common causes of generalized rashes include chickenpox, fifth disease, and roseola. Most rashes caused by viruses are not serious and usually disappear over a few days to a week. Home treatment is all that is needed to treat these rashes.

A generalized rash may be a symptom of a chronic skin condition, such as eczema or psoriasis.

A high fever, sore throat, sandpapery rash, and raspberry-textured tongue may indicate scarlet fever. Scarlet fever is a childhood disorder that usually occurs between the ages of 2 and 10. The rash is caused by a toxin that is present in some strep bacteria. The rash itself does not need treatment, but the strep infection does. The rash is not contagious, but strep infection is. Other common strep infections include strep throat and impetigo.

On rare occasions, even with today's immunizations, there will be an outbreak of measles (rubeola) or rubella (German measles). If a child has a generalized rash that looks like measles or rubella, especially if there is an outbreak in the community, call your doctor.

A rash that looks like a sunburn and a fever of 102°F (38.9°C) or higher may be caused by a rare condition called toxic shock syndrome.

A very rare and serious type of generalized red rash may cause the skin to peel away, leaving large areas of skin that weep or ooze fluid like a severe burn. If this type of rash occurs, a visit to a doctor is required. The cause may be toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN), which can occur after the use of some medications.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer David Messenger, MD
Last Revised July 19, 2010

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: July 19, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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