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Did you know covid-19 can give you rashes? Here’s everything you need to know

Updated on:6 October 2020, 09:04am IST
Not just the nose and throat, the covid-19 infection can also make you break out in different types of rashes.
Dr Rinky Kapoor
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Those itchy hives on your skin can be a sign of covid-19. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

The novel coronavirus infection has shocked and surprised the entire world. With over three crore confirmed cases around the world and the numbers increasing every day—scientists, doctors, medical researches all over the world are baffled by how the virus is affecting people. 

Initially believed to be a respiratory tract infection, covid-19 is now recognized as the disease of the body and it is affecting all major organs such as heart, kidney, liver, and lungs. The information and analysis of coronavirus changes every day and to add to this confusion is the type of symptoms that develop in a patient. 

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From children to adults, and from pregnant ladies to older gentlemen—the signs of the virus infection vary in degree and timeline from one person to another. Fever, difficulty in breathing, dry cough used to be the first indications of covid infection; but now there is another symptom added to the list: skin rashes and lesions. 

There is nothing in any textbook that tells us how to treat covid or identify the symptoms in one go. Over 20% of people around the world, who have been tested positive of coronavirus, have shown skin rashes as the single symptom. 

Rashes have become an important clinical feature in identifying covid infections in children and adults. Some rashes appear at the start of the infection, some arise later, and some after the treatment while some skin rashes manifest into severe diseases later on. 

covid-19 rashes
Avoid those rashes using some DIY hacks. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Here are seven major categories of rashes associated with covid-19:

1. Maculopapular eruptions
A combination of raised and flat skin lesions and bumps that are reddish in colour appear on the patches of skin. These can be itchy and appear at the same time as other symptoms of covid. These rashes are often associated with a more severe disease and last for about nine days. This type of skin rash is one of the most common symptoms of coronavirus affecting the skin.

2. Covid toes
This reddish and purplish rash occurs at the tips of hands or/and toes. These bumps can be painful and itchy and can cause blisters and pustules. They have chilblain like symptoms and are more common in the younger generation and have been linked with mild levels of covid-19 infections.

The rash usually appears later in the infection and usually lasts for about 12 days. The red and sore rashes cause the skin to peel when healing.

3. Hives or urticaria-like rashes
Red and white patches of bumps appear suddenly on the skin and cause severe itching and discomfort. These blotches can be very small in size or cover the entire body part. The appearance of these rashes is accompanied by swelling and can involve any part of the body.

covid-19 rashes
Irritable skin? Then it is time to do some damage control. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

In some patients, they disappear within minutes but in some, they last for hours. Hives on the face can affect the lips and eyelids, and cause them to swell. Hives clear within seven to eight days but some patients might see recurring hives even after coronavirus treatment.

4. Prickly heat like rash/chicken pox rash
Also known as erythematous-papular rash (described as a red bumpy rash) or erythematous-vesicular rash (described as chicken pox-like rash), these are more severe than hives and can last for weeks. They appear as red and bumpy areas especially on the elbows, knees, back of hands and feet. They occur during the start of the infection and can last for weeks after the treatment.

5. Water blisters
These appear often in the hands of middle-aged patients suffering from covid disease. These fluids filled blisters can last for about 10 days and indicate a medium severity of disease.

6. Livedo necrosis and livedo reticularis
Fishing nets like patterns erupt on the skin. This pattern is caused because of the eruption and blockage of blood vessels under the skin. In some cases, tiny purple bruises can also be seen in the lace like pattern.

7. Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C)
This rash is triggered by the inflammation of heart and blood vessels resulting in swelling and redness of hands and feet. This rash is common in children and can occur up to three months after the child has been treated for coronavirus.

Also, listen:

Some doctors have also reported seeing dengue-like rashes on men and women, who were tested positive for coronavirus. The appearance of different types of rashes is often linked to the result of the body’s immune systems response to malfunctioning.

While researchers are still working and studying on the exact link between rashes and covid disease, if you notice any kind of such symptom on your skin then you must consult your doctor as soon as possible. In the meantime, it is best to self-isolate yourself until the test results come in. Most rashes get better with time as the infection leaves the body.

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Dr Rinky Kapoor Dr Rinky Kapoor

Consultant Dermatologist, Cosmetic Dermatologist & Dermato-Surgeon, The Esthetic Clinics