Viral Rash (Child)

Your child has been diagnosed with a rash caused by a virus. A rash is an irritation of the skin that may cause redness, pimples, bumps, or blisters. Many different things can cause a rash. In children, a viral infection is one of the most common causes of rashes. Anything from colds to measles can cause a viral rash. Viral rashes are not allergic reactions. They are the result of an infection. Unlike an allergic reaction, viral rashes usually do not cause itching or pain.

Viral rashes usually go away after a few days, but may last up to 2 weeks. Antibiotics are not used to treat viral rashes.


Viral rashes may be accompanied by any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever

  • Decreased energy

  • Loss of appetite

  • Headache

  • Muscle aches

  • Stomach aches

Sometimes a more serious infection can look like a viral rash in the first few days of the illness. This is why it is important to watch for the warning signs listed below.

Home care

The following will help you care for your child at home:

  • Fluids. Fever and rashes both increase water loss from the body. For babies under 1 year old, continue regular feedings (formula or breast). Between feedings give oral rehydration solution (ORS). You can get ORS at most grocery and drug stores without a prescription. For children over 1 year old, give plenty of fluids such as water, juice, gelatin water, lemon-lime soda, ginger-ale, lemonade, or popsicles.

  • Feeding. If your child doesn't want to eat solid foods, it's OK for a few days, as long as he or she drinks lots of fluid.

  • Activity. Keep children with fever at home resting or playing quietly. Encourage frequent naps. Your child may return to daycare or school when the fever is gone and he or she is eating well and feeling better.

  • Sleep. Periods of sleeplessness and irritability are common. Give your child plenty of time to sleep. 

    • For children 1 year and older.   Have your child sleep in a slightly upright position. This is to help make breathing easier. If possible, raise the head of the bed slightly. Or raise your older child’s head and upper body up with extra pillows. Talk with your healthcare provider about how far to raise your child's head.

    • For babies younger than 12 months. Never use pillows or put your baby to sleep on his or her stomach or side. Babies younger than 12 months should sleep on a flat, firm surface on their back. Don't use car seats, strollers, swings, baby carriers, or baby slings for sleep. If your baby falls asleep in one of these, move him or her to a flat, firm surface as soon as you can.

  • Fever. Use acetaminophen for fever, fussiness or discomfort. In infants over 6 months of age, you may use ibuprofen instead of acetaminophen. Talk with your child's doctor before giving these medicines if your child has chronic liver or kidney disease. Also talk with your child's doctor if your child has ever had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding. Aspirin should never be used in anyone under 18 years of age who is ill with a fever. It may cause severe liver damage.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider, or as advised.

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Confused

  • Very drowsy or trouble awakening

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness

  • Rapid heart rate

  • Seizure

  • Stiff neck

When to seek medical advice

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • The rash involves the eyes, mouth, or genitals

  • The rash becomes more severe rather than improves over a few days

  • Fever (see Fever and children, below)

  • Rapid breathing. This means more than 40 breaths per minute for children less than 3 months old, or more than 30 breaths per minute for children over 3 months old.

  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing

  • Earache, sinus pain, stiff or painful neck, headache, repeated diarrhea or vomiting

  • Rash becomes dark purple

  • Signs of dehydration. These include no tears when crying, sunken eyes or dry mouth, no wet diapers for 8 hours in infants, and reduced urine output in older children.

Fever and children

Always use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Never use a mercury thermometer.

For infants and toddlers, be sure to use a rectal thermometer correctly. A rectal thermometer may accidentally poke a hole in (perforate) the rectum. It may also pass on germs from the stool. Always follow the product maker’s directions for proper use. If you don’t feel comfortable taking a rectal temperature, use another method. When you talk to your child’s healthcare provider, tell him or her which method you used to take your child’s temperature.

Here are guidelines for fever temperature. Ear temperatures aren’t accurate before 6 months of age. Don’t take an oral temperature until your child is at least 4 years old.

Infant under 3 months old:

  • Ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

  • Rectal or forehead (temporal artery) temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 99°F (37.2°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child age 3 to 36 months:

  • Rectal, forehead (temporal artery), or ear temperature of 102°F (38.9°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child of any age:

  • Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under 2 years old. Or a fever that lasts for 3 days in a child 2 years or older.

Was this helpful?

Yes No

Tell us more.

Check all that apply.

Last question: How confident are you filling out medical forms by yourself?

Not at all A little Somewhat Quite a bit Extremely

Thank You!

© 2000-2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.