Pityriasis Rosea: Care Instructions

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Pityriasis rosea on the back, with close-up of the rash


Pityriasis rosea (say "pit-uh-RY-uh-sus ROH-zee-uh") is a common skin rash. It usually starts as one scaly and pinkish, purple, or red-brown patch on your stomach or back. Days or weeks later, more small patches appear. The rash may itch, but it will not spread to other people.

Experts aren't sure what causes pityriasis rosea. It may be caused by a virus.

Pityriasis rosea is most common in children and young adults. It lasts 1 to 3 months and then goes away on its own. Medicine can help relieve any itching.

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 your doctor prescribed medicine, use it exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you have any problems with your medicine.
  • Use a mild soap or a gentle skin cleanser when you wash your skin.
  • Add a handful of oatmeal (ground to a powder) to your bath. Or you can try an oatmeal bath product, such as Aveeno. Keep the water warm or lukewarm. A hot bath or shower may make the rash more visible and itchy.
  • Try an over-the-counter 1% hydrocortisone cream for small itchy areas. Use the cream very sparingly on the face or genitals. Note: Do not use the cream on children younger than age 2 unless your doctor tells you to. Do not use in the rectal or vaginal area in children younger than age 12 unless your doctor tells you to.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs of infection such as:
    • Pain, warmth, or swelling near the rash.
    • Red streaks near the rash.
    • Pus coming from the rash.
    • A fever.

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

  • You see the rash on the palms of your hands or the soles of your feet.
  • 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.