Viral Rash in Infants: Types, Diagnosis & Treatment

Viral Rashes in Babies – Types, Symptoms and Treatment

Viral rashes in babies and toddlers are common. A viral rash is triggered by a baby’s immune response to an infection. In most cases, viral rashes don’t itch but they end up appearing on body parts, such as the back, chest and even face. Some of these rashes may bleed, induce fever, and show signs of aches and pains. Read on to learn more about viral infections in babies, how to treat them, and when you might need to check with your baby’s doctor.

What Is a Viral Rash?

A viral rash is referred to as a viral exanthem in babies. It’s a type of rash that occurs on both sides of the baby’s body, unlike other rashes. These types of rashes are caused by viral infections and are often red or pink in colour. The affected areas are usually the back and the chest and mostly accompany symptoms like runny nose, fever, cough, etc.

Immunization can help prevent and lower the chances of these infections but if a child develops a rash, consulting a doctor is necessary.

Various Types of Viral Rashes in Babies

Babies are prone to infections that cause viral rashes. However, with the development of vaccinations for most of these infections, now they can be treated and prevented. Let’s look at some of the most common types of rashes that affect babies.

1. Roseola

Roseola is characterized by tiny pink dots that start appearing on the belly and then spread all over the body after the initial fever subsides. The viral rash begins with a high-grade fever that may last between 3-5 days. Most cases of roseola are mild and do not require any treatment.


What It Is 

Roseola is referred to as the ‘sixth disease’ and is a type of viral infection that affects young children. Children between the ages of 6 months old to 2 years are most commonly affected by this. The infection is not contagious.


Common symptoms of roseola are:

  • High-grade fever
  • Nasal congestion
  • Loose stools

2. Chickenpox

Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus and begins from the chest. It is common in young children and kids who have not been given a vaccination for the same. It spreads rather quickly if a child is not vaccinated.

What It Is 

What’s distinct about chickenpox is how the pattern of the rash alters as the condition progresses. At first, fluid-filled vesicles turn into blisters which pop after a few days.


Common symptoms of the chickenpox virus are:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Headache
  • Fever and fatigue
  • Blisters on the face, back, chest, or tummy

3. Rubella

Rubella is transmitted via fluids from the nose or mouth. It begins on the face and spreads its way down to other parts of the body. It is preventable, and if your baby has received the MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine, you have nothing to fear about. Lab and blood tests are required to diagnose Rubella.

Rubella test

What It Is 

Rubella is known as German measles and it’s contagious. Pregnant moms can transmit it to the baby in the womb and the virus may lead to birth defects and abnormalities. Plenty of rest and staying hydrated are recommended for kids who are infected.


Rubella is characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Pain or ache in muscles
  • Mild fever
  • Red eyes
  • Headache
  • Pink or red rashes appearing on the face

4. Measles

Measles is a respiratory virus and can occur in children who are not vaccinated against it. The signs and symptoms of measles appear 10-14 days after infection. And three to five days after these symptoms appear, a rash develops. But thanks to the availability of the vaccine that it’s no longer common. H

What it Is 

Measles appears as flat red dots along the hairline and later develops as bumps which may spread to other body parts.


Symptoms of measles are:

5. Fifth Disease

Fifth disease is a viral infection that commonly occurs in kids between the ages of 5 to 15. It is also called ‘slapped cheek disease‘ or erythema infectiosum and its main cause is the parvovirus B19.

Parvovirus that causes the fifth disease

What It Is 

Fifth disease is a viral disease that results in red rash on the arms, legs, and cheek. The pattern of rash makes its appearance resemble similar to that of a slapped cheek which is how it got its name. The rash starts on the face and works its way down to the arms, and legs.


Common symptoms of the fifth disease are:

  • Low-grade fever
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Red blotches with lighter shades of colour on the skin
  • Red eyes
  • Swollen glands
  • Diarrhoea
  • Swelling in the joints

6. Hand, foot, and mouth disease

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is highly contagious. Although this infection can affect people of all ages, it is most common in children under the age of 5 years. The infection usually goes away on its own in a week.

What It Is 

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a viral infection caused by the coxsackievirus. This contagious infection is characterised by blisters or sore in the mouth. It can also cause a rash on hands and feet.


The symptoms of this infection include:

  • Fatigue
  • Soreness in the throat
  • Red rashes that don’t accompany itching
  • Irritability in kids
  • A lack of appetite
  • Red bumps or lesions on the tongue,  gums and the insides of cheeks.
  • Fever

Are Viral Rashes Contagious?

Viral rashes aren’t contagious but the viruses are, which may transmit from air droplets or respiratory deposits. The viruses are contagious and the infections can spread when someone comes in contact with the recipient’s throat or nasal secretions. Children with viral infections can stay contagious for up to a week before the rash appears and starts developing. Some viral infections can be borne by insects like mosquitos, birds, or ticks such as the Zika and West Nile viruses.

Which Infants Are More at Risk?

Children who are exhibiting cold/flu-like symptoms are at an increased risk of getting these viral infections. Also, kids with a sore throat, children who haven’t been vaccinated before, and with weak immune systems are at risk.

How Are Viral Rashes Diagnosed in Babies?

In order to diagnose the infection, the baby’s paediatrician may ask certain questions such as the child’s immunization history, age, medical conditions, diet, etc.

The doctor will then:

  • Take note of the child’s appetite.
  • Take into consideration the time and season of the year as some skin rashes occur during specific seasons only and go away later.
  • Look for patterns in rashes and ask further questions for a thorough medical evaluation.
  • Do a visual diagnosis based on experience and compare it to similar viral infections like meningitis rashes to confirm symptoms.
  • Collect blood and urine samples for lab analysis.
  • Evaluate the child’s medical history.

What Are the Treatment Options?

The different treatment options available for viral rashes in infants include:

  • Painkillers or pain relievers like acetaminophen. These are given only based on the doctor’s recommendations.
  • Getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, nuts, vegetables, and immunity-boosting antioxidants.
  • Applying cool compresses or calamine lotion on the affected areas may help relieve pain. Doctors may sometimes prescribe antiviral drugs for the treatment depending on the type of infection.
  • Giving your child a nice warm bath.
  • The doctor may suggest you make sure that your child takes plenty of rest and drinks plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

How Can Viral Rashes Be Prevented in Infants?

Viral rashes can be prevented in infants in the following ways:

  • Avoiding contact with people who carry the different strains of these viruses.
  • If there is a rash, you can prevent the risk of further infections by simply covering up the area and urging your child to not scratch it.
  • Making sure that your child practises proper hygiene and washes his hands before and after eating and using the toilet.
  • Making sure to get immunized or vaccinated on time and attend scheduled healthcare checkups.

When to Consult a Doctor

If you notice a viral rash on your baby’s skin but he does not have a fever or note any symptoms which are out of the ordinary, you should consult a doctor immediately. Here are a few cases in which you should definitely reach out for help:

  • If the viral infection accompanies pain and tingling sensations.
  • The rashes don’t change in appearance when you put a little bit of pressure on it. Usually, if the rashes don’t turn red or white after pressing, it could indicate internal bleeding (under the skin) which is a sign of a medical emergency.
  • Your child stops eating, drinking, and can’t seem to feed on formulae.
  • Your child rests too much and is lethargic.
  • Bruises start appearing along with the rashes.
  • The rashes don’t go away on their own after a few days.

Viral rashes are common in babies and kids under 5 years of age and usually go in its own. But if you notice something unusual, don’t hesitate to reach out to a healthcare professional. And do make sure your child never misses a vaccine – if your child is vaccinated against all these infections, takes plenty of rest, and eats healthy, he will be fine.

Also Read:

Rash on Infant’s Face
How to Treat and Prevent Neck Rash in Infants
Heat Rash in Infants

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Aarohi Achwal holds a bachelor’s degree in Commerce and a master’s degree in English Literature. While working as an intern for an English daily, she realised that she likes writing above anything else. The idea of being heard without having to speak appeals to her. She likes to write research-based articles that are informative and relevant. She has written articles on pregnancy, parenting, and relationships. And she would like to continue creating content on health and lifestyle.