What to Know About a Cough and Rash Appearing Together

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Causes of a cough and rash together

Some of the most common causes of a cough and skin rash include:

Allergies

Many people have allergies. Allergies occur when the immune system registers something as a threat, such as:

  • pollen
  • dust mites
  • mold spores
  • pet hair
  • certain foods

Doctors call these things allergens. Typical allergy symptoms include:

  • cough
  • rash
  • sneezing
  • itching
  • swelling

COVID-19

The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 can cause the disease COVID-19. COVID-19 mostly affects the lungs and can be severe in older people and those with underlying health conditions. The main symptoms of COVID-19 are a fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath. Other symptoms may include:

  • new loss of taste or smell
  • extreme tiredness
  • body aches
  • headache
  • sore throat
  • stuffy or runny nose
  • nausea or vomiting
  • diarrhea

Some people with COVID-19 may also develop a rash. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the rash could appear as:

  • patches
  • itchy bumps
  • chickenpox-like blisters
  • pinpoint spots
  • a lace-like pattern
  • joined-up flat spots and raised bumps

Cough and rash in children

In children, the most common causes of a cough and rash include:

Measles

Anyone who has not had a measles vaccination can develop measles. Measles is highly contagious, meaning it spreads quickly, and it can be severe. For some people, it can be fatal.

Measles can be severe for all age groups. However, some groups are more likely to experience complications from measles, including:

  • children under 5 years old
  • people who are pregnant
  • adults over 20 years old
  • people with compromised immune systems

A fever is usually the first sign of measles, along with a cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. People may also notice small white spots inside the cheeks.

A rash tends to develop after several days. It often starts on the face and neck and spreads across the body to the hands and the feet. The rash tends to fade after 56 days.

Treatment

No antiviral treatments exist for measles. People can avoid complications by ensuring the body has everything it needs to fight the infection. That includes nutritious food and plenty of fluids.

Children with measles sometimes need vitamin A supplements, which can help prevent eye damage. Sometimes, measles can lead to eye and ear infections or pneumonia. When this happens, doctors will usually prescribe antibiotics.

Roseola

Roseola is a viral infection that causes a skin rash and a high fever. It most commonly affects infants between the ages of 612 months. It can affect adults, but this is rare. Doctors might call roseola sixth disease or exanthema subitum.

The first sign of roseola is a high temperature, which may last for 35 days. The child will then usually develop a pink rash on the torso, which might spread to the arms, legs, neck and face.

Other symptoms may include:

  • red eyes
  • sore throat and cough
  • runny nose
  • irritability

Treatment

Roseola will usually get better without treatment. In the meantime, home remedies can help ease symptoms, such as:

  • rest
  • enough fluids
  • cool sponge baths
  • over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen

    When to contact a doctor

    If someone is experiencing color changes, hives or swelling on the skin along with other symptoms of anaphylaxis, they need emergency medical attention. Those are:

    • itching or swelling in the lips, tongue, or throat
    • vomiting, diarrhea, or cramps
    • dizziness or passing out

    People who suspect they have COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider as they may need to get a COVID test. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that anyone experiencing the following symptoms should seek medical care immediately:

    • trouble breathing
    • continuous pain or pressure in the chest
    • a blue tinge to the lips or face
    • inability to wake or stay awake
    • new confusion

    The complications of measles can be severe. Anyone with a child showing symptoms of the condition should speak to a doctor immediately. The best way to prevent measles is vaccination.

    Summary

    There are many causes of cough and a rash. Allergies and viruses are the most common causes.

    Some viruses and mild allergies will clear up without treatment. Anyone who is having a severe allergic reaction or difficulty breathing should seek medical attention immediately. Children with suspected measles also require urgent medical attention.

    People who have symptoms of COVID-19 may need to take a test and seek medical advice.

    Read more on: covid rash, skin rash

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