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Skin Rashes Linked to COVID-19: What to Look For

Fever, tiredness, dry cough and shortness of breath are common symptoms of COVID-19, but not everyone who develops the disease has the same symptoms. Symptoms may manifest in other ways in some people; particularly children. Doctors are seeing skin rashes and purple spots develop on some patients diagnosed with coronavirus. These spots are being dubbed “COVID toes,” but may also appear on the hands. In some cases, the coronavirus skin rash or spots may be the first or even the only symptom of COVID-19.

Back in early March, a small study out of Italy documented skin problems on COVID-19 patients and found about 20% of the people in the small study had a dermatological issue. Early data suggests kids are experiencing this symptom of COVID-19, sometimes in the absence of other symptoms.

Virus-induced rashes, like the coronavirus skin rash, are not uncommon. They can happen as a result of the immune system’s attempt to fight the invader. With COVID-19, doctors in several countries have reported seeing various types of skin changes.

Since children infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, often have no other symptoms of the disease — even though they can pass the virus on to others — purple spots can be helpful as possible signs of infection.

The purple spots appearing on toes, feet and sometimes hands, which may resemble a bruise, are thought to result from blockages or tiny clots in small blood vessels. For reasons not yet understood, the coronavirus rash appears to occur more often in children and adolescents with COVID-19 than in adults. Some doctors are reporting cases thought to be associated with COVID-19 in which the spots cover the entire tip of the toe. At least one case of scabbing has been reported. The spots heal on their own and don’t appear to dangerous.

The lesions can look like blue or purple bumps and hurt or feel warm to the touch. They are often painful when you touch them and some people also describe feeling hot or burning. Bottom line: “COVID toes” are not an internet myth and are something you should be on the lookout for.

People with unusual skin changes should contact their healthcare provider. A virtual visit with a board-certified dermatologist, primary care physician or pediatrician is likely the best option in non-emergency cases. When a skin change is the primary symptom or the only symptom, a dermatologist may be best equipped

While rashes are still pretty uncommon, continue to monitor symptoms. Should you notice a rash or “COVID toes” in addition to the common symptoms of the coronavirus, it’s best to contact your healthcare provider sooner than later. It is bet to get tested to provide an accurate diagnosis.

For more information or to request an appointment, please contact Dr. Patrick McDaid, M.D.

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