Pityriasis rosea (say: “pit-ih-rye-ah-sis row-see-ah”) is a scaly, reddish-pink skin rash. It is most common in children and young adults, and it usually occurs in spring and fall.
If you get this skin condition, you may feel like you have a cold at first. You may feel congested, have a sore throat and a cough. Then, a single scaly red spot may appear on your back or stomach. This is called a "herald patch." Smaller spots will develop on your body days to weeks later. These spots may itch badly. If the rash is on your back, it may have the shape of a Christmas tree.
Doctors don’t know exactly what causes pityriasis rosea. Some doctors believe that pityriasis rosea is caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Certain medicines can also cause this rash. Pityriasis rosea is not contagious, so people who have this rash do not have to be kept away from other people.
Pityriasis rosea usually lasts 1 to 3 months and usually never comes back. Let your doctor know if the rash or itching lasts longer than 3 months.
The rash usually goes away on its own. No treatment can cure it, but medicine can help relieve the itching. Your doctor might suggest antihistamine pills (one brand name: Benadryl), a steroid cream, calamine lotion or zinc oxide cream to relieve the itching. Sometimes people who have pityriasis rosea have to take steroid pills to clear up their rash.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff