COVID-19 Symptom: Rash in Adults
Written by Ada’s Medical Knowledge Team
- COVID rashes can develop on any part of the body
- There is no distinct shape or size of a COVID rash
- The typical COVID-19 rash usually doesn’t last very long - often a few days to a few weeks
- A COVID rash can be treated with various types of over-the-counter medications
A COVID-19 rash in adults is one of the possible symptoms of COVID-19. Although it’s not present in all cases, many people have reported various types of rashes while they had COVID.
COVID-19 is a virus that does not cause rashes like many conditions, such as Lyme or chickenpox. This makes it hard for doctors to diagnose it. COVID rashes can take on various shapes and forms and may feel itchy or painful. In addition, COVID rashes can affect any part of the body. Reports indicate the presence of a rash on various body parts, including the arms, legs, trunk, face, and toes.
What is a COVID-19 rash in adults?
The exact cause of COVID rash is not yet fully understood, but it’s believed to be related to the immune response to the virus, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. 1 This immune response can cause inflammation in various parts of the body, including the skin. The inflammation can cause the blood vessels in the skin to dilate, leading to the formation of the rash.
It’s not present in all adults with COVID-19, but a significant number of people with COVID-19 have experienced a rash. In fact, data from large studies in Europe found that 10% of patients with COVID-19 will present with a skin reaction. It’s unclear whether a COVID rash is more prevalent in the new variants. 2 3 4
What does a COVID rash in adults look and feel like?
A COVID skin rash can present itself in many ways and on different body parts. Most often, the rashes will appear on the limbs and the trunk, but the feet and the hands may also be affected.
- Rose-red flat or slightly elevated eruptions resembling measles
- Raised red or skin-colored bumps on the skin or hives
- Small fluid-filled blisters
- Painful red and swollen fingers or toes
- Rashes due to blood clots in small blood vessels that cause reduced blood flow in the affected skin area
How long does COVID rash last in adults?
If you develop a rash with COVID-19, it will usually take about a week to clear. Some cases only last a few days, while others can take longer than 2 weeks. How long you experience COVID rash also depends on which type of rash you have. A rash that appears as hives usually clears faster than other forms of COVID-19 rashes. ref5
Is a COVID rash in adults contagious?
It’s important to note that a COVID rash itself is not contagious. The rash occurs because of the body's immune response to the virus and cannot be spread to other people through contact with the rash.
However, a person with a COVID rash will have the virus in the system and can spread it. It’s important to still take precautions against spreading COVID-19, even if a rash is your only symptom.
How can a COVID-19 rash be diagnosed?
As a COVID-19 rash always clusters with other symptoms of COVID-19, your doctor will ask you about any other symptoms you might be experiencing if they suspect your rash stems from a COVID-19 infection.
As a COVID-19 rash can look similar to some other viral rashes, such as chickenpox, measles, or herpes simplex, your doctor will have to consider all your symptoms and test you for COVID-19 to confirm the diagnosis. 3
Is there a treatment for a COVID-19 rash in adults?
COVID rash is not typically considered a serious condition and does not pose a significant risk to overall health. However, it can be uncomfortable or painful and can cause some people to feel self-conscious about their appearance. Treatment for a COVID-19 rash in adults depends on the severity of the rash you’re experiencing and the type of skin lesions you have. It typically involves using over-the-counter creams or lotions to relieve itching and reduce inflammation.
- Anticoagulants (blood thinners)
As with any medical symptom, it’s important to seek medical advice if you have any concerns about a COVID rash or other symptoms.
The exact cause of the rash is not yet fully understood, but it’s believed to be related to the immune response to the virus. The rash is typically not serious and can be treated with over-the-counter creams or lotions. The American Academy of Dermatology has set up a registry for patients with skin symptoms related to COVID-19. Your doctor can share information about your COVID rash to help the larger healthcare community better understand this symptom.
Q: Does COVID-19 cause a rash in adults?
A: An infection with the coronavirus may cause a rash in some cases.
Q: Is a rash a sign of COVID-19 in adults?
A: A rash may be a sign of COVID-19 in adults, although it’s not present in all cases of COVID-19. Your healthcare provider will take your other symptoms into account as well.
Q: Can a COVID-19 vaccine cause a rash in adults?
A: In some cases, it’s possible to develop a rash after the COVID-19 vaccine. This happens because the vaccine can cause an allergic reaction in the skin, presenting itself with hives and swelling.
Q: Does COVID make you itch all over?
Some people diagnosed with COVID-19 report itching all over their body, while others may experience itching only in certain areas, such as the face or limbs. The itchiness can vary in intensity. The itchiness may be accompanied by a rash.
Q: How long after COVID can you get a rash?
The timing of when a COVID rash appears varies by case. Some people may develop a rash soon after contracting the virus, while others may not develop a rash until several days or even weeks after the onset of COVID-19 symptoms. Additionally, some people who test positive for COVID may never develop a rash.