Erythema Multiforme: Care Instructions

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Overview

Erythema multiforme (say "air-uh-THEE-muh mul-tuh-FOR-mee") is a rash that often causes red spots. These spots can look like targets, with a circle around the edge and a darker area in the center.

In most cases, doctors know the rash when they see it. But sometimes blood tests or testing a tissue sample (biopsy) can confirm what type of rash you have. Or these tests can help rule out other problems.

This skin condition is usually found on the hands, feet, arms, or legs. But it can affect any part of the body. This includes the mouth, the eyes, and the genitals. Sometimes, the rash itches or burns. Some people have a fever or feel a little sick.

Doctors don't always know what causes erythema multiforme. But the rash may be related to an infection, a medicine, or another health problem.

In most cases, the rash goes away on its own in a few weeks. In some people, the rash returns. Treatment can include medicines for itching and mouth pain.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If itching is a problem:
    • Put a cool, moist cloth on the rash.
    • Try an over-the-counter antihistamine. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • For pain from mouth sores, try rinsing regularly with an over-the-counter mouthwash for mouth sores.
  • If your doctor prescribed medicine, take it exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have a new rash that affects your eyes, mouth, or genitals.
  • You have a fever or chills.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your rash is changing or getting worse.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.