Drug Rashes Symptoms & Causes

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Drug rashes, the body's reaction to a certain medication, can range from mild to severe. These can include:

  • Rashes caused by an allergic reaction to the medication
  • Rashes produced as an unwanted effect of a particular medication
  • Rashes due to hypersensitivity to sunlight caused by the medication
  • Drug rashes may be severe and require hospitalization. Contact your child's physician immediately.

What are the different types of rashes caused by drugs?

Type of Rash Symptoms Possible Cause


pimples and red areas that appear most often on the face, shoulders and chest

anabolic steroids, corticosteroids, bromides, iodides and phenytoin

Exfoliative dermatitis

red, scaly skin that may thicken and appear on the entire skin area

antibiotics that contain sulfa, barbiturates, isoniazid, penicillins, and phenytoin

Fixed drug eruption

a dark red or purple rash that confines itself to the same area on the skin (usually the mouth or genitals)

antibiotics and phenolphthalein (found in certain laxatives)


raised red and white bumps

aspirin, certain drug dyes and penicillins

Morbilliform/maculopapular rash

a flat, red rash which may include pimples similar to the measles

antibiotics and barbiturates are the more common causative drugs; however, any drug can cause this rash

Purpuric eruptions

purple areas on the skin, usually on the legs

some anticoagulants and diuretics

Stevens-Johnson syndrome

blisters or a hive-like rash on the lining of the mouth, vagina or penis

antibiotics that contain sulfa, barbiturates, penicillins and other antibiotics

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