As weeks go by during the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more information surfaces regarding the disease and transmission, the mortality rate, and the symptoms. Just last week there were reports of kids’ toes and fingers having a “frostbite” appearance. Now, there are numerous reports of rashes on the skin of adults and kids linked as a symptom of COVID-19.
Here is a summary of the reports, the types of rashes seen, and what it means for you.
When this all started, we were mostly concerned about respiratory symptoms and lung damage. And, we still are.
But, as many people seem to be asymptomatic without any typical symptom of COVID-19, it’s become interesting to learn how the virus is manifesting in different people.
Possibly even causing skin rashes.
Doctors and studies from Spain, France, and China have indicated that rashes may be a part of the disease progression. Early studies only found 0.2% of patients with rashes (1). However, Italian researchers have stated a 20% rash-rate among COVID-19 patients in their study. This study was conducted by dermatologists, who are experts at identifying changes and subtle abnormalities in the skin (2).
The skin often acts as a conduit of inflammation or immune system reactions in the body.
In fact, many viral illnesses are hallmarked by rashes, including chickenpox, measles, and hand, foot, and mouth disease. The body’s immune response to the disease itself causes a rash on the skin.
Other examples include rosacea and eczema, which is often caused by an immune response to an allergen.
What’s unique with the COVID-19 rashes, though, is that most of them are being seen in adults and not children. Typically, rash-related viral diseases are found in younger patients.
However, this may simply be due to fewer children being tested. Since many children may be carrying the disease but are otherwise asymptomatic, they are likely not being seen by medical professionals.
The types of rashes in the reports vary. Some appear as tiny red spots, while others appear as larger flat or raised lesions. Others are more like hives. And, as noted, some skin changes look like frostbitten toes.
In the studies, researchers have reported the rash symptom of COVID-19 as 5 types:
The different types of rashes, and the varying times of onset and lack of consistency from patient to patient, makes it tough to know for sure if the rashes are truly a COVID symptom.
But, as more reports come out, it seems likely that there is a connection between these rashes and a positive COVID test.
Once research has the chance to catch up with this pandemic, and tissues samples are examed to determine if COVID-19 can be detected in skin cells, we will know more.
Hopefully, researchers will be able to agree on the most common symptoms and streamline the testing for them in the future.
If you believe you are positive for COVID-19 and would like to add your data regarding rashes, a task force with the American Academy of Dermatology has created an online COVID-19 dermatology registry. The survey takes just 5-7 minutes and does not collect any personal data.
This data may help doctors pinpoint rashes as a distinct COVID-19 symptom for possible future outbreaks.
Are rashes yet another symptom of COVID-19 emerging as we work through this pandemic. It may be. Scientists, doctors, and researchers are doing their best to collect real-time data. This data, combined with future research, will hopefully give us a better understanding of the COVID-19 virus.