A viral infection rash is a skin rash resulting from exposure to any of a number of viruses. Viral exanthema is a skin rash caused by a non-specific virus, while rashes such as shingles and measles are the result of specific viruses. This type of rash cannot be treated with antibiotics, which only treat bacterial infections, though anti-viral medications tailored to specific viruses can help limit the severity of certain viral infections.
Skin rashes caused by viral infections are distinguished from non-viral skin rashes such as those caused by allergic reactions, insect bites and poison ivy. While non-viral skin rashes can be treated with over-the-counter medications, there is no cure for viral infection rashes. Rashes caused by viruses are the result of a reaction to a viral toxin, the virus damaging the skin, or an immune response to the virus. Treatment is aimed at limiting the severity of the rash and minimizing discomfort.
Chickenpox is a common viral infection rash in children that is self-limiting and produces an uncomfortable, itchy rash. The chickenpox virus occasionally remains dormant in the nerves and reappears in adulthood as shingles. The pain and discomfort of shingles is usually greater than that of childhood chickenpox. The shingles rash sometimes does not resume dormancy but instead stays active for many years. A shingles outbreak that lingers for extended periods of time causes a type of pain known as postherpetic neuralgia.
The measles infection also presents as a viral infection rash, as does rubella, or German measles. With the advent of childhood inoculations, these viral diseases are not as prevalent as they once were. Fifth disease, also known as erythema infectiosum, is caused by the human parvovirus and is more common in children than in adults. The virus causes red cheeks and a lace-like rash pattern on the arms, legs and trunk. Fifth disease lasts for up to six weeks but rarely causes complications.
There are a number of other viruses that can result in a rash. Human herpes viruses cause roseola, a type of viral infection that most commonly affects children. Dangerous and contagious viruses, such as infectious mononucleosis and viral hepatitis, cause some viral rashes. Most viral infections are contagious, so any viral infection rash should be checked by a doctor to avoid having it infect others. It is better to consult with a physician before attempting self-treatment, because some home treatments may aggravate the skin rashes instead of healing them.