Viral Exanthems, Adult

ExitCare ImageMany viral infections of the skin are called viral exanthems. Exanthem is another name for a rash or skin eruption. The most common viral exanthems include the following:

  • German measles or rubella.

  • Measles or rubeola.

  • Roseola.

  • Parvovirus B19 (Erythema infectiosum or Fifth disease).

  • Chickenpox or varicella.


Sometimes, other problems may cause a rash that looks like a viral exanthem. Most often, your caregiver can determine whether you have a viral exanthem by looking at the rash. They usually have distinct patterns or appearance. Lab work may be done if the diagnosis is uncertain. Sometimes, a small tissue sample (biopsy) of the rash may need to be taken.


Immunizations have led to a decrease in the number of cases of measles, mumps, and rubella. Viral exanthems may require clinical treatment if a bacterial infection or other problems follow. The rash may be associated with:

  • Minor sore throat.

  • Aches and pains.

  • Runny nose.

  • Watery eyes.

  • Tiredness.

  • Some coughs.

  • Gastrointestinal infections causing nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Viral exanthems do not respond to antibiotic medicines, because they are not caused by bacteria.


  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, discomfort, diarrhea, or fever as directed by your caregiver.

  • Drink enough water and fluids to keep your urine clear or pale yellow.


  • You develop swollen neck glands. This may feel like lumps or bumps in the neck.

  • You develop tenderness over your sinuses.

  • You are not feeling partly better after 3 days.

  • You develop muscle aches.

  • You are feeling more tired than you would expect.

  • You get a persistent cough with mucus.


  • You have a fever.

  • You develop red eyes or eye pain.

  • You develop sores in your mouth and difficulty drinking or eating.

  • You develop a sore throat with pus and difficulty swallowing.

  • You develop neck pain or a stiff neck.

  • You develop a severe headache.

  • You develop vomiting that will not stop.