I developed a strange full-body rash that was diagnosed as pityriasis rosea. This is my story.
What Is Pityriasis rosea
Pityriasis rosea (pit-uh-rahy-uh-sis row-zee-ah) is a skin rash. It is harmless but may cause discomfort in certain cases. Normally, it begins with a single "herald patch" lesion that lasts 7–14 days and is then followed by a generalized body rash usually lasting 6–8 weeks, though sometimes up to 12 weeks. In rare cases, it can last up to 6 months.
My Fun-Filled Story
As I sit here writing this article, I am covered in pityriasis rosea. This is the first time I've had this rash, and from what I've learned, it will most likely be the last. It is a scary rash!
I was sick with an upper respiratory infection about a month ago. It was bronchitis. (I am a recent ex-smoker and thank god for being able to put cigarettes down after 17 years of smoking). Anyhow, I received treatment and antibiotics for my cold and quickly recovered.
I have been going through extreme stress related to work and family, and I had purchased a new swimsuit when I first noticed my herald patch. I thought it was from fabric friction (looking back now, I have no idea why I'd think that was the cause). In any event, I quickly thought nothing more of it.
A week passed, but it had not healed. Then I thought I might have contracted ringworm, as I once got that from a tanning bed, and the current rash looked very similar. I treated it for 3 more days with anti-fungal medication and coconut oil, but it did not improve.
By day 30, I had a low-grade fever and was exhausted. I rested when I could. Then the rash began to expand and cover more of my body. It started on my lower legs and inner thighs and quickly moved to my belly and rib cage. It is still spreading as I type this. I have it on my thighs, groin, rib cage, armpits, chest, back, and legs. The only places that seem unaffected are my face, palms, soles of feet, and forearms.
I've read that this rash is associated with immune system suppression as well as herpes virus type 6 and 7, which 90% of humans carry by the age of 6 years old. I also read that it is viral. I did have chickenpox as a kid, so it's very likely this is a form of HSV.
At this point, I finally went to my dermatologist, who confirmed the diagnosis. But before getting to the dermatologist, I ended up in the ER due to panic and severely uncomfortable skin. I felt like I wanted to burn my skin off; I had never felt this kind of extreme discomfort before, and it was horrible.
My dermatologist promptly reassured me that there was no need to panic and that I can treat this at home. I'm still in panic mode; I want this to go away. I feel like a freak, or that I should be cast out to a leper colony. Luckily for my other family members, this is not contagious.
I'm now treating the rash at home with garlic capsules, anti-inflammatory medication, steroids, vitamins, rest, and medicated powder. I only pray this will be gone in a few more weeks, especially because my belly is itching like crazy! It is a very scary, unsettling rash, although harmless and not life-threatening.
It is a non-specific rash, and the cause is not well understood. It can spread almost over your entire body and it takes a long time to clear up. I felt compelled to share my experience with others—so if you get this rash, you will know to seek treatment earlier than I did.
Symptoms of Pityriasis rosea
The symptoms of this skin disorder are usually easy to identify but can often be mistaken for another illness.
- In all cases, a legion called a "Herald patch" will develop. This is an oval-shaped lesion, with a flaky raised edge, 1–10 cm in size with a raised border and fine, adherent scales. It may first appear as a mild skin abrasion, but as days pass, it can easily be mistaken for ringworm. But using anti-fungal creams will do nothing to make it go away. Typically the Herald patch appears on the chest or arms, but sometimes in the armpit, where it is easily unnoticed. The Herald patch will form, and within 7–14 days, new lesions in smaller sizes will begin to develop on the body. Most of the time, the rash will cover the upper extremities and trunk, leaving the face, hands, and feet unscathed. It can also appear on the lower legs, groin, and buttocks.
- The average heal time is 6–12 weeks and will not cause scarring
- 1 in 4 people will experience mild to severe itching.
- This rash can also cause fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, nausea, mild fever, headaches, and a considerable amount of stress and low self-esteem.
- Try not to freak out (I wigged out and it seemed worse), and also eliminate as much stress from your life as possible until you are fully healed.
Read More From Youmemindbody
What Causes This Strange Rash?
Pityriasis rosea is often caused by suppression to the immune system. This can be from a previous illness, bacteria, virus, or from extreme stress. It is common for a previous upper respiratory infection to proceed with all other symptoms in 70% percent of cases diagnosed. This rash typically does not leaves scars on the body.
Treatment of Pityriasis rosea
It is advised to visit a dermatologist to make sure what you are experiencing is in fact pityriasis rosea. The good news is that this skin disorder usually only appears once in someone's life and can easily be treated at home until it goes away. This rash is not contagious. You may find a combination of the treatments below works best for you, or that only a few will work.
- Use OTC pain medication for inflammation, headaches, and fever
- Use benadryl as an antihistamine
- Gold Bond medicated powder and cortisone cream can control daytime itchiness
- Soaking in an oatmeal bath will also help discomfort from itching
- In extreme cases, steroids can be prescribed, like Prednisone (if you are on a steroid do not use cortisone creams). Also keep in mind that most prescription medications lower your immunity and have nasty side effects, so it's best to avoid them when possible, and use them as a last resort. If you have any form of Herpes simplex virus, do not take steroid medication for this rash. Doing so can result in an HSV outbreak. Speak with your doctor or dermatologist about other options.
- Diaper rash ointment can also be helpful
- Washing with Head and Shoulders on your body can be helpful
- Keep your skin clean, and don't scratch, pick or scrub when showering
- Use cold compresses, avoid exercise or clothing that suffocates and overheats your body
- Shower in the coldest water you can tolerate and avoid heavily perfumed soaps
- Sun exposure can also help lesions heal more quickly
- Take garlic capsules, vitamin D, vitamin C, and zinc to boost your immune system
- L-Lysine can help retard viral reproduction
- Get plenty of rest and water
- Don't be alarmed if the rash continues to spread after the 7-14 Herald patch arrives, you should see a decline in new rash patches within secondary arrival in about 14 days
- Eliminate as much stress as possible from your life
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2013 Rebecca
Ruth Gotschall on May 26, 2019:
Thank you for this article! Is it possible to have without the itching? I believe this is what I have but I do not experience the itchiness others described.
Lisa. on April 09, 2019:
Hi, It'@ nice to know this is called.. ive had it for about 6 years off and on. It seems like when its almost gone.. then it come right back. It funny because as much as i hate it i dont do what i need to make it go away.. i dont put anything on it but aveeno lotion everyday, but i did do a glutten free diet and they went away completely for about 2 years.. slowly came back after that.. i deal with the itch pain and learn to ignore it. Knowing i need to go back to a glutten diet again to make them go away.. i do eat pretty good dont drink cokes only water it decaf unsweetened tea but i guess its the gluteen thats affecting me.
Victoria on February 08, 2019:
There is a light at the end of the tunnel !
I hated every second of this rash . I live in Texas and during the summer, my god, it felt like my skin was on fire! The heat was awful.
But it gets better. It goes away.
I tried vitamins, head & shoulders, cold showers.. nothing helped. Then thankfully I found Prreze.
Within a week, it went away.
Although, it hurt when I would put it on. I felt like it was drying out my rash but I kept doing it and it worked miracles for me.
Good luck !
Rebecca (author) from USA on December 01, 2018:
Thanks for this great comment!
Anonymous on December 01, 2018:
Raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar and oatmeal baths work wonders, this is my first time experiencing this and I believe I'm about 3 weeks in, i started treating with apple cider vinegar and oatmeal baths about 2 weeks ago and it does help to dry out this infection, but you must do that regiment repeatedly I havent repeatedly done it but is about to start because I see the results of it, aswell this is a wonderful site to have a support system of what's happening to your body and no you're not by yourself.
Rebecca (author) from USA on November 05, 2018:
hope it helps. Sorry you had it twice, I know once was bad enough for me.
Reyna on November 04, 2018:
Thank for sharing. I've been searching forever to figure out what the hell I had. This is my second outbreak of this rash. My last one was about a year ago. And I am currently recovering from a cold of some sort. I guess i'm the unlucky one to get it again. I suppose I'm just glad it's nothing serious.
Rebecca (author) from USA on November 04, 2018:
That's because you can't. It's viral, so sadly needs to run its course. Thanks for the comment.
Me on November 01, 2018:
I missed the part that says how to cure it....!
Sel on September 13, 2018:
Thanks Rebbecca for sharing your story it’s more common than we realise it’s very depressing to have as well but definitely think it’s down to major stress and now our body as reacted to it I don’t think it’s to do with medication foods etc definitely stress but that’s my personal option I don’t think anything gets rid of it just supports the burning or itching I think it as to go on it’s own sadly as there is no cure at all so nobody can really help us I just hope it doesn’t last more than three months feel like it’s neber gonna go away as it looks that bad all over the whole body
Sel on September 13, 2018:
Hi I’ve also got it all over my body nearly four weeks now people say Prreze works and neen oil but I haven’t try them I think we just have to let nature do it’s course it burns it itches it’s terrible skin problem so I feel for you all it’s near enough covered my whole belly and back and got it everywhere apart from face I think it’s stress related 100 per cent when you have serious stress for a year or more I think there is a big chance that people will get it if not they end up with something more worse mine is still very red and looks very angry so not sure when it goes pink to brown to healing cause mine doesn’t look like it’s healing at all but it’s only nearly four weeks so still at it’s prime of spreading
Rebecca (author) from USA on September 04, 2018:
You're very welcome
Jon on September 04, 2018:
Thank u very much for sharing!
Dawn on September 01, 2018:
Need advice had itchy arms kneck for 14 months under dermo but still having test can any one help ❓
Rebecca (author) from USA on June 24, 2018:
Glad you are getting well :)
Chris on June 24, 2018:
I am finally getting over pityriasis rosea. I went to the doctor the first week I got it, and I didn't believe his diagnosis. I was worried it could be something like scabies, ringworm. It kept getting worse and my body was covered in bumps and welts from scratching. But after another 1-2 weeks, it's starting to go away on its own like he said it would.
For others I might suggest getting some topical or oral steroids to reduce the itching while it runs its course. I managed to get through this entire thing with no medication, but there were definitely a few VERY itchy and restless nights.
Rebecca (author) from USA on February 22, 2018:
:( I'm so sorry to hear this. It's miserable. Do all you can to avoid scratching and take good care of your immune system.
Holli on January 26, 2018:
I'm having my second bout with PR right now. First time was probably around 10 years ago. I am itching like crazy right now. I'm saw a regular GP about 2 weeks ago, showed them the Herald patch, even told them that I thought it was PR. They said winter itch ...
Two weeks later and my whole torso is covered with itchy spots and bump. Going to try to see a dermatologist this week.
Bridget on October 06, 2017:
I have this rash now. I'm in my third week. My herald patch was on my breast. I thought at first I was having an allergic reaction to a food then I though psoriasis and also maybe I picked up some big at work. (I work with little children and get sick quite often - preschool aged children). My mom's a nurse I showed her and she thought it was a reaction as well- I had just showed her my stomach. I have a rash on my neck to my legs. It's very uncomfortable under my bra and pretty much everywhere the rash is. It's embarrassing - I tell people I'm not contagious a lot. I stay covered up as much as possible so no one sees it.
Jenn on September 29, 2017:
I had PR around age 15. The derm doc did 2 30 minute radiation treamemts 2 days in a row and the rash was gone a couple days later.
Ruthie on September 06, 2017:
I have had PR for 3 months now! It seems to be getting better, but every time I think that I get more breakouts, my torso is looking better but the back of my legs and the top of my butt cheeks are itching terrible! This stuff is awful, first
I thought it was poison ivy, put on steroids, the contact dermatitous , 3 more weeks of steroids which did nothing, then my doctor said it was the pityrisas , after 2 more weeks went to dermatologist and got a biopsy, yep definitely PR! I never ever had a herald patch ! I hope so bad this stuff goes away soon, it has ruined my summer! God bless all who have this rash, and I hope we all heal soon!
Diana Barajas on July 11, 2017:
I had it, and used Prreze cream. It took it away and the itch. That drove me the crazy worst.
KateClaire on June 25, 2017:
Thank you Rebecca for this article. I'm dealing with the same thing.
firstname.lastname@example.org on March 18, 2017:
I am just getting over it, in the 5th week since the herald. I had terrible itching so the doc gave me a 7 day course of prednisone and it has helped so much. I would not want to take it longer than that. The rash is still there but less of it and it is fainter and flatter and less itchy. I can shower again so things are looking up. Don't give up.
KB on January 28, 2017:
I had a terrible sore throat that lasted for weeks before Christmas, then the rash started. I never saw a mother patch, but each bump starts small and itchy and then seems to get bigger and bigger. Its been 4 weeks now and still in the depths of winter so there's no sun to be had for awhile yet. Too many spots to count and new ones every day...
Dlbrazier on December 30, 2016:
Oh how I'm so happy that I stumbled upon this. I'm absolutely miserable right now. I have tried everything with no relief. I was also misdiagnosed with an allergic reaction and, given steroids and also a antihistamine. It went away for a few days and, then the mother patch came back. On my legs and, arms. My legs are killing me! I'm an essential oil guru so I make oils for everything. I'm here to say that I have tried everything! None of them work. I'm now going to resort to oatmeal, chamomile and good old calamine for some relief while I wait this out. Mine too has spread in the last few days terribly. I fortunately have a sun lamp that I've been using. It does help! But since I have so many it takes forever. I can't wait for this to be over!! It was nice to read that everyone else has felt or feels the same way I'm feeling right now. It seems as though we all find this blog in our darkest hour. Searching the internet relentlessy for a solution. I also read that ST Johns Wart is helpful. So I will add that to my regiment. I will post in a few days with an update. Until then I hope anyone else who is suffering will find comfort in knowing they are not alone!
Rebecca (author) from USA on December 29, 2016:
I'm so sorry to hear of your discomfort! I've been there. Try not to scratch it just makes it worse. Try oatmeal baths too, they seemed to help. It will clear up, I promise. I'm glad this article helped you and wish fast healing for you! You're ex husband sounds like a moron, no offense.
Shelley Dove Rich on December 21, 2016:
I see that this post is about 2 years old, but I've been digging for info like a crazy person. In my defense, this intense itching would make anyone crazy! I was diagnosed by my daughter's pediatrician when her eczema flared up and I thought I had spread [what I thought was a] ringworm. I had discovered my herald patch nearly 2 weeks prior to that date and only had 5 or 6 bumps on my arms that I had originally thought to be bug bites (which had developed over the previous 2 days). My daughter's doctor explained that she believed it to be Pityriasis Rosea and that it wasn't contagious. I had been sick about the time that I noticed my herald patch. My immune system sucks as I suffer from several autoimmune diseases, including psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. The drugs for those alone kill what's left of my immune system. Before I thought I had spread it to my daughter and decided I may have something else I actually assumed my herald patch to be a new patch of psoriasis.
Since that diagnosis last Thursday, my whole body (minus the palms of my hands, the soles of my feet, and my face) has erupted in an ugly, scaly, itchy rash. Half of those with it report no itching and those that itch mostly report only mild itching, but I'm to the point that I feel like I'm losing my mind. I haven't slept more than a few hours in the past week...and I need my sleep oh so bad right now. Since yesterday I've even developed what seems like 1,000 new spots, so I'm feeling like there's no end in sight. It's embarrassing and my ex husband (who's already spread a lie that I cheated on him) has started spreading that I have syphillis! This stuff has to go soon, before I lose my mind. My arms seem to be the worst in terms of percentage of coverage and intensity, but it's bad everywhere. It's been at least 4 weeks since I initially discovered my herald patch on my stomach, so I'm praying that the next few days will bring clearing and relief. Especially relief!
Thanks for your post. It's reassuring to see that someone else had intense itching and made it through this rash without scratching their skin down to the bone.
Rebecca (author) from USA on May 23, 2016:
Karen, thanks for your comment. I agree stress is major factor with skin ailments. You have to keep your immune system up and drink plenty of water. I hope you heal fast! I know when I had this it was just terrible. Hoping you heal quickly :)
Karen on May 22, 2016:
I had it on my torso 45 yrs ago and have had like a very small light spattering on my legs in recent years (one here, one there type of thing) but now have it all over the undersides of both arms. Mine have never itched and original Dr said it just needs to run it's course (no treatment). I have been under stress a lot lately and am fair skinned and seem to get every skin condition there is to be had. Stress seems to play a part in all of them. The look of it is the worst part for me...going out in public looking like you have a contagion.
Cara on February 04, 2016:
I'm ony 7th year with pityriasis!! No matter what I do I can not get rid of it. I'm starting steriods tomorrow tk see if it helps. Not many people get it like my case sadly to say I am one the the unfortunates. I have learned to keep it under control but it's always on my body. Luckily it does not affect my neck and face or my head! Hopefully some day it will just go away.
Rebecca (author) from USA on July 10, 2014:
Send away Danielle, I will post them. Happy to share any info that will help people with this awful rash. Can you message me, and I'll send you my email add?
Danielle on July 10, 2014:
Great article. Very helpful! I would suggest posting a pic of an African American, as the rash looks a little different, more brown than pink. I wouldn't mind sending you pics of my herald patch.
Pitiless rosea on December 14, 2013:
1. This rash can be very different for different people. I have a very severe case of it, but many people have mild symptoms and most have it once.
2. Many people don't have a herald patch. It can affect the face and scalp. My PR started in my scalp, moved down my face, died down for four days and then spread along my torso and arms with a vengeance.
3. Most people have one case, but I'm having my second case in six months. My first case was so atypical that I had four misdiagnoses by GPs before a dermatologist diagnosed PR and even she wasn't 100% sure (but it healed like PR, confirming her diagnosis). So go see a derm.
4. GET UV LIGHT/SUNLIGHT ONTO IT. My initial case lasted almost 7 weeks before it started healing. I'm tanning vigorously for this second case and it started healing at 2 1/2 weeks. Currently at 3 weeks and it's retreating much faster than the first time. Here in Australia, we're not allowed to use sunbeds (with the world's highest rate of skin cancer), so natural sunlight is the only option.
5. You may get a low grade fever, like mono. In fact, both times my fever started at the turning point of the rash to the healing phase. I'm sleeping 12 hours a day right now, but that should clear by the end of next week. Told you this thing was atypical.
6. For me, the only thing that eased the itching is calamine and tanning. That means, the first time, I had to suffer 7 weeks of itching and very little sleep. This time, it only kept me awake for two or three nights, right before it 'broke', and even then I could sleep for much of the night, just getting up every two hours for more calamine.
Good luck. It will pass. If you're reading horror stories online, remember that many people never get a professional diagnosis, or self diagnose, and probably have something other than PR.
Rebecca (author) from USA on August 06, 2013:
Thanks. This rash is relentless! I just wish I would have discovered in my research how to avoid getting it at all! It's a mystery.
Marie Hurt from New Orleans, LA on August 06, 2013:
It looks very itchy. Hope you heal quickly. Thanks for the very detailed article on your experience and what to do. I am sure it will be very helpful for others.
Janet Giessl from Georgia country on August 06, 2013:
OMG, this must be terrible! Around New Year I had a contagious bacterial skin infection called Impetigo contagiosa. This was terrible. My little daughter who was only 7 months also got it. I hope you will recover soon. Thank you for sharing your experience though it is not comfortable.
Rebecca (author) from USA on August 06, 2013:
Thank you ChitrangadaSharan!
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on August 06, 2013:
So sorry to hear about your skin problem! It looks scary and I can visualize your agony. My good wishes to you, for quick recovery.
Thanks for sharing your experience and educating others about it!