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When Your Child Has Pityriasis Rosea
Outline of child from back showing rash on back. One large spot of rash is herald patch.
With pityriasis rosea, an itchy rash appears on the back and chest. It often starts with a single large patch called a “herald patch.”

Pityriasis rosea is a kind of skin rash. It usually affects the chest and back. The rash may start with a single, large oval patch called a “herald patch.” Smaller patches may appear a few days later. Pityriasis rosea occurs more often in older children and teenagers but anyone can get it. It can cause your child mild discomfort, but it is not a serious problem. It can easily be managed and treated at home.

What causes pityriasis rosea?

The cause of pityriasis rosea is unknown. It is not thought to be contagious (able to spread from person to person).

What are the symptoms of pityriasis rosea?

Pityriasis rosea causes a rash made up of small, oval or round patches. The patches are scaly and are pink or light brown. Sometimes the rash spreads in a Christmas-tree pattern on the back. It can also cause itching.

How is pityriasis rosea diagnosed?

Pityriasis rosea is diagnosed by how it looks. To get more information, the doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. The doctor will also examine your child. You will be told if any tests are needed.

Woman applying cream to rash on boy's back.
To relieve itching, topical medication, such as hydrocortisone cream, can be applied to the rash.

How is pityriasis rosea treated?

  • Pityriasis rosea may cause itching for 1 to 2 weeks. It generally goes away on its own within 6 to 8 weeks. Most children get better with no treatment.

  • Give your child over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamine medication to relieve itching.

  • Apply an OTC topical medication, such as hydrocortisone cream, to relieve itching. Each time before and after applying the medication, wash your hands with warm water and soap.

  • Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation may help decrease itching and the duration of the rash.

  • A small amount of natural sunlight (5 to 10 minutes a day for several days) may be beneficial in resolving some situations with significant itching.

  • Talk with your doctor about any severe itching; some prescription medications may be helpful.

Call the doctor if your child has any of the following:

  • Rash that worsens or becomes painful

  • Itching that does not respond to home treatment

What are the long-term concerns?

After healing, your child’s skin may appear darker or lighter in the affected areas. This color change will fade over time.

© 2000-2015 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.