It’s flu season. You probably know someone who is down and out, with a fever, body aches, a sore throat and cough. But what if they also have a rash? Is this a symptom of the flu? Or does it mean something else is going on?
While a rash is not typically a symptom of the flu, that doesn’t mean it isn’t. Influenza affects many parts of your body and not everyone reacts the same way. If you are susceptible to allergic skin reactions, it is possible that your rash is a symptom of the flu. However, if you develop a rash with flu-like symptoms, you should talk to your doctor. Some of the more common medical conditions that include aches, fever and rashes include:
Shingles - Shingles is caused by the chicken-pox virus and can be dormant in the body for many years before it appears. It usually starts with a painful rash on the face or body; however, early symptoms can include flu-like symptoms, headaches and sensitivity to light.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever - A seasonal disease caused by a tick bite, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever begins with flu-like symptoms with a rash appearing on the fourth day. The rash usually begins on the wrists and ankles, spreading first to the palms of your hands and soles of your feet and then to the arms, legs and trunk.
Meningococcal Disease - Also known as meningitis, this disease is sometimes fatal and begins with a fever, headache and stiff neck. Symptoms of meningitis often appear suddenly although viral meningitis may develop over several days. Symptoms can resemble flu-like symptoms and you may develop a rash. Meningitis is a serious medical condition and if you think you may have meningitis, you should seek medical care immediately.
Fifth Disease - This childhood illness is most commonly seen in children between the ages of four and 10 years old. It normally begins with a low grade fever and bright red cheeks. The rash usually appears on the arms and legs one day after the fever begins.
Lyme Disease - This is also caused by a tick bite and symptoms normally occur one to two weeks after the tick bite but may not appear for a month or longer. The early signs of Lyme disease are often similar to the flu — joint aches, fever and fatigue. If not treated, rashes can develop.
Coxsackie Virus (Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease) - This viral infection causes cold-like symptoms and blisters on the mouth, hands and feet.
Lupus - An autoimmune disease that includes painful joints, fatigue and a rash. Joint pain is often the first sign of lupus. It is a chronic condition.
Roseola - A childhood infection that causes upper respiratory symptoms and high fever followed by a rash as the fever breaks. It is most common in young children between the ages of six months and two years old.
Mononucleosis - This is a viral infection causing extreme fatigue, fever, sore throat, muscle aches and rash. It is often seen in teens and young adults. It is transmitted through saliva which is why it is often referred to as the “kissing disease.”
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.