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Expert Q&A

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Is my son's widespread upper-body rash really rosacea?

Asked by Parker, Jackson

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I have a preadolescent son who has developed a rash on his abdomen, shoulders/top of his arms, chest area, upper/lower back and portions of his neck, but NOT on his face. He is not itchy or in pain, but we waited a few days and then took him to his pediatrician. They said it is rosacea. Is it possible for it to be this widespread?

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Living Well Expert Dr. Jennifer Shu Pediatrician,
Children's Medical Group

Expert answer

Thanks for your question. It sounds like you are describing a skin condition called "pityriasis rosea." This rash is commonly seen in children and adolescents and is made up of multiple scaly oval spots over the trunk resembling a pattern of pine-tree branches. This condition usually lasts for four to eight weeks and goes away on its own, leaving no lasting effects. The only treatment typically involves a cream to lessen any itching.

While your pediatrician or dermatologist would be the one to confirm the diagnosis and appropriate treatment, I consulted with Dr. Jeffrey Benabio, a dermatologist in San Diego, California, and author of The Derm Blog, for more information about pityriasis rosea:

Often the rash begins with one circular spot that resembles ringworm. This first spot is sometimes called a "herald patch." The rash tends to spread over weeks to most of the body often sparing areas that are exposed to the sun such as the face and arms. It can be red or pink to salmon colored. In people with dark skin, it can appear brown. The rash is sometimes itchy and often leaves temporarily darkened areas on the skin. It can take weeks to sometimes months for pityriasis to resolve. Topical steroid creams such as hydrocortisone cream can minimize the itching. Although it can last frustratingly long, the rash is harmless and leaves no permanent scar. Interestingly, the main cause of the rash is a virus and the rash occurs in outbreaks mostly in the spring and fall.

The American Academy of Dermatology has more information on pityriasis rosea.

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