What Are the Most Common Causes of a Petechial Rash?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2019
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A petechial rash consists of small marks on the skin created by broken blood vessels. It can be caused by an assortment of things, both benign and serious. When a patient develops this kind of rash, it is important to take note of associated symptoms like fever, confusion, or bloody urine, as these can indicate whether the problem is serious. It may be necessary to see a doctor for evaluation and treatment.

One very common reason to have a petechial rash is trauma. People can develop marks on their faces after crying or coughing heavily, for example, and such rashes sometimes occur along with bruises after heavy blows. Tight clothing or restraints like handcuffs can also damage capillary blood vessels and lead to a rash.

Some bacterial and viral infections cause this type of rash. These can be serious, and may lead to symptoms like fever as well. The sudden onset of small spots on the skin accompanied by high fever may require immediate medical attention, especially if the patient is also exhibiting gastrointestinal or neurological symptoms. Rocky mountain spotted fever, hantavirus, and hemorrhagic fevers, for example, can cause this type of skin outbreak.


Blood disorders and vasculitis are other potential causes of petechial rash. Patients with known clotting disorders may develop rashes periodically, or the rash could be a symptom of a condition like leukemia or a disease that causes a drop in platelets. Blood vessel irritation may also lead to fragility in the capillaries, which creates a rash, especially on the legs.

Some medications can also cause rashes, including a petechial rash. These may be discussed in the warnings about side effects. Patients who notice a rash after they start a new medication or change their dosage can bring it up with a care provider to determine if it is a cause for concern or a sign of a bad reaction. Additional symptoms can provide additional clues to shed light on the situation. Another potential cause of petechial rash is lupus, an autoimmune disorder where the body starts attacking itself.

When the signs of petechial rash develop in children, it can be a cause for concern, as it may be linked with viral or bacterial infection. Parents may want to consider the site of the rash and any contributing factors; for example, a chest rash might be the result of a car seat restraint that is buckled too tight. If they’ve ruled out benign causes, or the patient also has a fever, disorientation, and other signs of distress, a nursing hotline can evaluate the patient over the phone to determine if immediate care is needed. Patients of any age should go to an emergency room if they have high fevers, an altered level of consciousness, or extreme behavioral changes.


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Post 1

I have this rash after a physical altercation, where hands were placed around my throat. What can I do to make the rash heal faster?

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