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Pityriasis Rosea

  • Overview

    Pityriasis rosea is a common and mild skin condition characterized by scaly, pink and inflamed skin.

    • Pityriasis rosea usually starts with a pink or tan oval area on the chest or back. Smaller patches appear elsewhere on the body in a few weeks.
    • The cause of pityriasis rosea is unknown but is commonly believed to be caused by a virus.
    • It is usually seen in children, adolescents and young adults.
    • The condition can last from four to eight weeks and usually leaves no lasting marks.
    • There is no cure, but the condition will resolve spontaneously. In the meantime, treatment can relieve symptoms.

    Boston Children's Hospital 
    300 Longwood Avenue
    Boston MA 02115

     617-355-7701
     fax: 617-730-0505

  • In-Depth

    What is pityriasis rosea?

    Pityriasis rosea is a common and mild skin condition characterized by scaly, pink and inflamed skin. The condition can last from four to eight weeks and usually leaves no lasting marks.

    What causes pityriasis rosea?

    The cause of pityriasis rosea is unknown but is commonly believed to be caused by a virus. It is usually seen in children, adolescents and young adults. Most people with the rash are 10 to 35 years old.

    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 or back. After a couple of weeks, the main patch is typically followed by smaller pink or tan patches elsewhere on the body – usually the back, neck, arms and legs. The scaly rash typically lasts between four to eight weeks and will disappear without treatment.

    Each child may experience symptoms differently, but in general, the signs include:

    The symptoms of pityriasis rosea may resemble other skin conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

  • Tests

    How is pityriasis rosea diagnosed?

    Pityriasis rosea is usually diagnosed based on a medical history and physical examination of your child. Due to the uniqueness of the pityriasis rosea rash, your child's physician can typically make a diagnosis based on a simple physical examination. Your child's doctor may also order the following tests to help aid in the diagnosis:

    • blood tests
    • skin biopsy - the removal of some of the diseased skin for laboratory analysis

    The sample of skin is removed after a local anesthetic is administered

  • There is no cure for pityriasis rosea, but the condition will resolve on its own. The goal for treatment is to relieve symptoms associated with the condition, such as itching. Treatment will be determined by your child's physician based on the severity of the condition and may include one or more of the following:

    • medicated lotions and creams to soothe the itching
    • medications by mouth to soothe the itching
    • cool baths with or without oatmeal to soothe the itching
    • ultraviolet exposure, under a physician's supervision
    • cool compresses to soothe the affected skin
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