Data from the COVID Symptom Study app now suggests that characteristic skin rashes should be considered as the fourth diagnostic sign of COVID-19. These skin rashes can also occur in the absence of any other symptoms.
The most common skin rashes linked to COVID-19 are:
- COVID fingers and toes or chillblains: inflammation of the toes caused by the virus can turn the skin a darker colour and lead to swelling and chillblain-like blisters. People suffering from ‘Long COVID’, a longer version of COVID-19 have reported these lasting for months after the initial acute phase.
- Hives or urticaria: these are raised bumps which can arise quite suddenly and are usually very itchy. They can appear anywhere on the body and sometimes start with intense itching of the palms or soles of the feet. On occasion, the eyelids and lips may swell. In the case of the mouth swelling, it is important to seek medical attention in case Hives tend to come on in the initial stages of the illness, but they can also last for a long time afterwards.
- Chickenpox, ‘prickly heat’ or erythemato-papular or erythemato-vesicular rash: small, itchy and inflamed bumps that can occur anywhere on the body. They tend to be common on the elbows and knees and the back of the hands and feet.
So, how do I treat COVID skin rashes?
The first thing to do if you notice a rash is to take it seriously, get a test and self isolate.
In most cases, COVID toes should resolve on their own within a few weeks and not require treatment. If lesions and swelling suddenly develop, however, do contact your doctor or dermatologist to check that it isn’t another skin condition that needs a specific course of treatment.
Hives can often settle down quickly - within a few minutes to a few days. You can treat hives yourself at home, generally with an antihistamine or a cooling cream, but it is wise to discuss the best one for you with your pharmacist first. The NHS offers useful advice about how to treat hives.
The best way to treat prickly heat is by cooling the skin, for example with a cold compress or ice pack. Make sure you pat the rash rather than scratching it and try to avoid perfumed shower gel or creams. Our Cooling Cream is a rich and soothing moisturising lotion designed to cool down hot or flushed skin. It’s formulated with deliciously cool menthol, soothing aloe vera juice and calming lavender essential oil to reduce redness and heat.
For more information about the skin conditions associated with COVID-19 there is some useful information on the COVID Symptom Study website and the British Association of Dermatologists website offers advice for people living with skin conditions.
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If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.