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These 3 Skin Rashes May Mean You Have COVID-19, Say Doctors

"Skin rashes cluster with other COVID-19 symptoms," say researchers.

Fever, cough, shortness of breath—these are all considered the main symptoms that have become universally associated with COVID-19. However, according to new research, there is another diagnostic sign of the scary virus that has infected nearly 14 million people around the world—and experts insist it should be considered the "fourth key symptom" of the virus.

According to a new pre-print study led by King's College London, skin rashes and reddish bumps should be added to the official coronavirus symptom list. Not only can these skin manifestations occur in conjunction with other symptoms, but also in the absence of any of them. 


The Rash is Key in Identifying the Virus

Smiling woman wearing protective face mask while using smart phone and text messaging at home.

Researchers used data from 336,000 people who submitted information via the Covid-19 Symptom Study app, finding that 8.8% who tested positive for COVID-19 reported skin rash as a symptom. Even more interesting is that 17% of them reported a rash as the first symptom of the disease. Additionally, for 21% of COVID positive people who reported a rash, it was their only symptom. 

"Skin rashes cluster with other COVID-19 symptoms, are predictive of a positive swab test and occur in a significant number of cases, either alone or before other classical symptoms," the study authors explain, urging that they be added to the official list of symptoms. "Recognising rashes is important in identifying new and earlier COVID-19 cases."


Three Manifestations of Rashes

Women scratch itchy arm with hand.

"Many viral infections can affect the skin, so it's not surprising that we are seeing these rashes in Covid-19," lead author Dr. Veronique Bataille, consultant dermatologist at St Thomas' Hospital and King's College London explained in the press release. "However, it is important that people know that in some cases, a rash may be the first or only symptom of the disease. So if you notice a new rash, you should take it seriously by self-isolating and getting tested as soon as possible."

The researchers specified that there are three types of common skin manifestations of coronavirus:


Hive-Type Rash

woman showing her skin itching behind , with allergy rash urticaria symptoms

Doctors call it: urticaria.

The first type of rash resembles the hives, a "sudden appearance of raised bumps on the skin which come and go quite quickly over hours and are usually very itchy," they write. "It can involve any part of the body, and often starts with intense itching of the palms or soles, and can cause swelling of the lips and eyelids. These rashes can present quite early on in the infection, but can also last a long time afterwards."


'Prickly Heat' or Chickenpox-Type Rash

Heat rash or prickly heat

Doctors call it: erythemato-papular or erythemato-vesicular rash.

The second type can look similar to the chicken pox. "Areas of small, itchy red bumps that can occur anywhere on the body, but particularly the elbows and knees as well as the back of the hands and feet. The rash can persist for days or weeks," they explain.


COVID Fingers and Toes


Doctors call it: chilblains.

COVID toes were identified early in the pandemic, and researchers explain they are characterized by "reddish and purplish bumps on the fingers or toes, which may be sore but not usually itchy. This type of rash is most specific to COVID-19, is more common in younger people with the disease, and tends to present later on."


Detection is the Key

woman worrying about her skin

"These findings highlight the importance of keeping an eye on any new changes in your skin, such as lumps, bumps or rashes," consultant dermatologist Dr. Justine Kluk added in the press release. "Early reporting of Covid-associated rashes by members of the public and recognition of their significance by frontline healthcare practitioners … may increase the detection of coronavirus infections and help to stop the spread." As for yourself, wear a mask, avoid crowds (and bars), practice social distancing and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah
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