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Pityriasis Rosea in Children

What is pityriasis rosea?

Pityriasis rosea is a mild, but common, skin condition. Characterized by scaly, pink, inflamed skin, the condition can last from one to three months and usually leaves no lasting marks.

What causes pityriasis rosea?

The cause of pityriasis rosea is not known, but it is commonly believed to be caused by a virus. Some patients may have a cold before the rash. It is usually seen in children, adolescents, and young adults. Most people with the rash are 10 to 35 years of age.

The condition is more prevalent in spring and fall.

What are the symptoms of pityriasis rosea?

Pityriasis rosea usually starts with a pink or tan oval area (sometimes called a herald or mother patch) on the chest, stomach, or back. The main patch is usually followed (after a couple of weeks) by smaller pink or tan patches elsewhere on the body, usually the back, neck, arms, and legs. The scaly rash usually lasts between 4 to 8 weeks and will disappear without treatment. In children, the rash may include vesicles and be located primarily on the face and scalp.

The following are other common symptoms of pityriasis rosea. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue

  • Aches

  • Itching, sometimes severe

The symptoms of pityriasis rosea may resemble other skin conditions or medical problems. Always talk with your child's health care provider for a diagnosis.

How is pityriasis rosea diagnosed?

Pityriasis rosea is usually diagnosed based on a medical history and physical exam of your child. The rash of pityriasis rosea is unique, and the diagnosis is usually made on the basis of a physical exam. In addition, your child's health care provider may order the following tests to help aid in the diagnosis:

  • Blood tests to rule out other conditions that might look like pityriasis rosea 

Treatment for pityriasis rosea

Specific treatment for pityriasis rosea will be decided by your child's health care provider based on:

  • Your child's age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the rash

  • Your child's tolerance for specific medicines, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the rash

  • Your opinion or preference

The goal of treatment for pityriasis rosea is to relieve symptoms associated with the condition, such as itching. There is no cure for pityriasis rosea. The condition will resolve spontaneously. Treatment will be decided by your child's health care provider based on the severity of the condition. This may include 1, or more, of the following:

  • Medicated lotions and creams (to soothe the itching)

  • Medicines by mouth (to soothe the itching)

  • Cool baths with or without oatmeal (to soothe the itching)

  • Ultraviolet exposure (under a health care provider's supervision)

  • Cool compresses (to soothe the affected skin)

  • Antiviral medicines may be used in severe cases