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Sore throat and rash overview
A sore throat occurs when your pharynx, or throat, becomes inflamed or irritated.
A rash is a change in the texture or color of your skin. Rashes can be itchy and raised, and can cause the skin to blister, look scaly, or feel sore. A rash’s nature and appearance can indicate possible causes.
Warning: Graphic images ahead.
- This bacterial infection is caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria.
- It’s transmitted through contact with droplets spread by the coughing and sneezing of infected people.
- Fever, sore, red throat with white patches, pain with swallowing, headache, chills, loss of appetite, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck are possible symptoms.
- Headache, fatigue, low fever, sore throat, runny nose, diarrhea, and nausea
- Children are more likely than adults to experience a rash
- Round, bright red rash on the cheeks
- Lacy-patterned rash on the arms, legs, and upper body that might be more visible after a hot shower or bath
Hand, foot, and mouth disease
- Usually affects children under age 5
- Painful, red blisters in the mouth and on the tongue and gums
- Flat or raised red spots located on the palms of the hand and soles of the feet
- Spots may also appear on the buttocks or genital area
- Symptoms include fever, sore throat, red, watery eyes, loss of appetite, cough, and runny nose
- Red rash spreads from the face down the body three to five days after first symptoms appear
- Tiny red spots with blue-white centers appear inside the mouth
- Occurs at the same time as or right after a strep throat infection
- Red skin rash all over the body (but not the hands and feet)
- Rash is made up of tiny bumps that make it feel like “sandpaper”
- Bright red tongue
Adult-onset Still’s disease
- Adult-onset Still’s disease is an extremely rare inflammatory illness that often causes fever, fatigue, rash, and swelling in joints, tissues, organs, and lymph nodes.
- It’s characterized by episodes of flare-up and remission.
- Symptoms include daily, recurring high fevers and body aches.
- A recurring pink rash may accompany fevers.
- Adult-onset Still’s disease causes joint swelling and joint pain.
- Other symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, abdominal pain, sore throat, pain associated with deep breathing, and unintentional weight loss.
West Nile virus
- This virus is transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitos.
- Infection causes a wide range of symptoms from mild, flu-like illness to meningitis and encephalitis.
- Fever, headache, body aches, back pain, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, and rash on the back, chest and arms are other possible symptoms.
- Severe symptoms include confusion, numbness, paralysis, severe headache, tremors, and problems with balance.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)
- This is serious form of viral pneumonia caused by the SARS coronavirus.
- It’s transmitted from person to person via inhaling droplets from an infected person’s coughing and sneezing.
- No new cases of SARS have been reported since 2004.
- Common symptoms include fever, chills, body aches, headache, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, diarrhea, sore throat, and runny nose.
- Polio is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus that attacks the nervous system and, in rare cases, may cause paralysis.
- Thanks to the invention of the polio vaccine and the global polio eradication initiative, the Americas, Europe, the Western Pacific, and Southeast Asia are polio-free.
- Signs and symptoms of nonparalytic polio include fever, sore throat, headache, vomiting, fatigue, and meningitis.
- Signs and symptoms of paralytic polio include loss of reflexes, severe spasms and muscle pain, loose and floppy limbs, sudden paralysis, and deformed limbs.
This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.
- This is a life-threatening reaction to allergen exposure.
- Rapid onset of symptoms occur after exposure to an allergen.
- These include widespread hives, itching, swelling, low blood pressure, difficulty breathing, fainting, rapid heart rate.
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain are additional symptoms.
- Infectious mononucleosis is usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)
- It mainly occurs in high school and college students
- Symptoms include fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, headache, fatigue, night sweats, and body aches
- Symptoms may last for up to 2 months
A rash and sore throat can be inflammatory responses. Your body releases chemicals called histamines when you’re exposed to an allergen. While this is meant to be a protective mechanism, histamines can cause a skin rash and a swollen throat.
Sometimes, a rash and swollen throat along with difficulty breathing may indicate a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is usually a result of exposure to something known to cause allergic reactions, such as a bee sting or certain foods.
If you believe you or someone around you is experiencing anaphylaxis, call 911 immediately.
Viral and bacterial infections also can cause a rash and sore throat. These can include the following:
Fifth disease is a viral infection that commonly affects children between the ages of 5 and 15. A sore throat may occur in the early stage of the illness and progress to a rash on the face. It then spreads to other parts of the body, including the chest, back, arms, and buttocks.
A rash is more likely to develop in children younger than 10 years old.
Most children recover quickly. There’s no vaccine for fifth disease, but good hygiene such as regular hand-washing helps stop the spread of the infection.
Commonly referred to as the “kissing disease,” this viral infection causes a fever, sore throat, rash, and swollen lymph nodes. Mononucleosis, or mono, is a contagious disease that spreads from person to person through contact with saliva and mucus. You can become ill after kissing someone with the virus, or sharing eating utensils and drinking glasses with an infected person.
Symptoms usually develop four to six weeks after exposure to the virus. Mono can be treated at home with plenty of rest and pain medication to manage fever, a sore throat, and headaches.
However, a burst spleen is a potential complication of mono, as is jaundice. See a doctor immediately if you experience sharp, severe pain in the upper section of your stomach, or note your skin or eyes turning yellow.
Strep throat and scarlet fever
Strep throat is caused by the group A Streptococcus bacteria. The condition starts with a sore throat. Other symptoms of strep throat include:
- white patches in the throat
- swollen glands
- enlarged tonsils
- difficulty swallowing
Some people may also have stomach pain, headaches, or a fever.
Your doctor can diagnose strep throat after a rapid strep test or throat culture. Treatment involves a course of antibiotics.
If you have strep throat, you’re at risk for developing scarlet fever, which is due to a bacterial toxin. A sign of scarlet fever is a telltale bright red rash over your body, which typically feels like sandpaper and may peel.
Some people who have scarlet fever also have a strawberry tongue, which appears red and bumpy.
Seek treatment if you suspect scarlet fever. If left untreated, the bacteria can spread to other parts of the body including the kidneys, blood, and lungs. Rheumatic fever is a complication of scarlet fever and can affect your heart, joints, and nervous system.
Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat scarlet fever.
Hand, foot, and mouth disease
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is a highly contagious disease caused by coxsackievirus. It’s spread by coming into contact with surfaces contaminated by feces or through contact with the saliva, respiratory secretions, or stool of a person infected with hand, foot, and mouth disease.
Young children are at the highest risk of getting this infection. Symptoms, including sore throat, usually clear up within 10 days.
Measles is known for its telltale rash that covers the body as the infection progresses. Other flu-like symptoms, like sore throat, fever, and runny nose, also appear in addition to the rash.
There is no real treatment for measles, so the best thing to do is get plenty of rest and drink fluids. To avoid getting measles in the first place, get the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine.
Adult-onset Still’s disease
Adult-onset Still’s disease (AOSD) is a rare inflammatory illness with primary symptoms that include high fever, joint pain, and a salmon-colored rash. AOSD can also cause a sore throat and swollen lymph nodes.
ASOD is characterized by flare-ups and remission. It’s possible to have only one episode in an entire lifetime, or multiple episodes in timeframe as short as a few months.
West Nile virus infection
West Nile virus (WNV) is transmitted by being bitten by a mosquito infected with the virus. It’s important to note that not all people bitten by these mosquitos will contract WNV.
Symptoms usually appear within 3 to 14 days after being infected and can include:
- sore throat
- body aches
- swollen lymph nodes
- rash on chest, stomach, or back
The best way to prevent WNV infection is to keep your skin covered with long-sleeve shirts and pants, wear insect repellent, and remove any standing water around your home.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a viral pneumonia first identified in 2003. Symptoms are similar to those of the flu and can include:
- sore throat
- dry cough
- loss of appetite
- night sweats and chills
- respiratory problems (around 10 days after infection)
Researchers are working a vaccine for SARS, but there is currently no confirmed treatment. There haven’t been any reported cases of SARS
Polio is a highly contagious virus that attacks the nervous system and is most common in children younger than 5 years old. Flu-like symptoms, like sore throat, are the most common symptoms of polio.
Thanks to the polio vaccine developed in 1953 and the 1988 global polio eradication initiative, much of the world is now polio-free. Regions include:
- Western Pacific
- Southeast Asia
However, polio is still present in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria.
Allergic reactions that cause a rash and swollen throat can range from mild to severe. A severe reaction is known as anaphylaxis. This is a medical emergency that can affect breathing. Seek immediate medical treatment if you experience this reaction.
Make a doctor’s appointment if you have a fever that doesn’t subside within two to three days. This can be a sign of a viral or bacterial infection. Also, seek medical attention if a rash becomes unbearably itchy, your skin begins to flake and peel, or you feel you’re experiencing a medical emergency.
Treatment for a rash and sore, swollen throat depends on the cause. For example, antihistamine medications can treat a rash and swollen throat caused by an allergic reaction. In severe instances, epinephrine can help reduce swelling in the throat.
While viral infections can’t be cured with medication, bacterial infections can. Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to reduce a bacterial infection’s symptoms and duration.
Your doctor also may prescribe or recommend a topical lotion or spray to reduce itching and discomfort from a rash.
Avoid scratching a rash to minimize its spread and prevent it from worsening and becoming infected. Keep the area dry and clean, using unscented, gentle soap and warm water. Applying calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream may help reduce and soothe the rash.
Gargling with warm salt water can soothe a sore throat. Resting and drinking plenty of fluids may help sustain the energy your body needs to heal.
Take prescription medication as directed and until it’s gone to avoid a relapse — even if you feel better.
If you develop a swollen throat rapidly and have difficulty breathing, you should be evaluated immediately in an emergency room.
Frequent hand-washing helps control the spread of infection. This includes washing your hands after sneezing, before and after eating, and after direct contact with others.
Avoiding common allergens such as strongly scented cosmetics and cigarette smoke can reduce the likelihood of a reaction.