Norovirus doesn’t usually cause a rash, though some people develop hives. A rash that accompanies stomach symptoms may suggest a different stomach virus or inflammatory bowel disease.

Norovirus is a common virus that usually affects your gastrointestinal (GI) system, causing vomiting and diarrhea. It passes quickly through your system in hours or days and doesn’t usually cause a rash.

A few studies indicate norovirus can cause hives, but this is a rare symptom. But other digestive illnesses may cause a rash. Keep reading to learn more.

Rash is not a typical symptom of norovirus.

A few studies have linked hives with norovirus, but they note the condition is uncommon and that more research is needed.

A study from 2008 featured two cases of hives associated with norovirus in adults.

A more recent study shared a case study of a 2-year-old child who developed hives while having a norovirus. The hives were all over the child’s body and were red and itchy. Along with hives, the child also had diarrhea and vomiting. Treatment with antihistamines caused the hives to disappear after a few hours.

Hives generally go away on their own or after taking an antihistamine. They often last for only a few hours. Hives that linger longer than a day may be due to a virus. Contact a doctor if your hives don’t recede on their own.

Diarrhea and rash

You may experience a rash from diarrhea, a common norovirus symptom. You can soothe symptoms by keeping the area clean, applying a barrier cream like petroleum jelly or hydrocortisone cream on the rash, and avoiding sitting too long.

Rash from diarrhea may be more common in children who wear diapers. You may notice inflamed and tender skin in the diaper area if your child has diarrhea from norovirus.

To treat diaper rash:

Contact a doctor if your child has prolonged or excessive diarrhea, a fever, blood in their stool, or sores in the diaper area.

Norovirus symptoms

Norovirus is a highly contagious GI virus. It can be spread from person to person as well as through food. Young children often experience norovirus, and it’s more common during the winter.

Norovirus symptoms may include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • fever
  • chills
  • headache

A serious side effect of norovirus is dehydration. This can be a severe condition in children and older adults as well as those who are chronically ill or with compromised immune systems.

Contact a doctor if you suspect you or someone you care for is experiencing dehydration to ensure timely medical care.

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Other conditions may cause GI distress along with a rash. Inflammatory bowel disease is an umbrella term for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Both conditions can cause a rash and issues with your digestive tract.

Some other conditions that may cause GI issues along with a rash include:

You can treat hives from norovirus by taking an over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamine, which will relieve symptoms caused by an overactive immune system. Hives should go away after a few hours or days.

If you have hives, try not to scratch the affected skin. Take cool and lukewarm (not hot) baths and showers while you experience hives.

Contact a doctor if you have a prolonged rash or hives.

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions related to norovirus.

What is the incubation period for norovirus?

Symptoms from norovirus can start within 12–48 hours of exposure. You may experience symptoms for 1–3 days.

Even if you don’t have symptoms from norovirus exposure, you may still be able to pass it on to others.

Can a stomach virus cause a rash on my face?

A rash on the face with a stomach virus may be fifth disease. This occurs commonly in children who are school-aged but can affect anyone. It most often occurs from late winter to early summer.

Symptoms of fifth disease include:

  • rash on the face but also elsewhere on the body
  • fever
  • headache and body aches
  • cold symptoms
  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • joint pain in adults

Symptoms in children and adults are generally mild. You should recover in a week or two. But if you’re pregnant or have a weakened immune system, it’s important to contact a doctor right away.

Can gastroenteritis cause a rash?

Norovirus is one cause of gastroenteritis, but there are others. Most do not cause a rash.

Common symptoms of gastroenteritis include diarrhea, vomiting, and a mild fever. You may also have body aches and headaches. Dehydration can also occur if you cannot retain fluids for an extended period.

It’s uncommon for norovirus to cause a rash. In rare cases, people may develop hives related to norovirus. This symptom should go away over time or with antihistamines.

You may also experience a rash from diarrhea, a common symptom of norovirus.

A rash along with GI symptoms may indicate you have a condition other than norovirus. Contact a doctor if you are concerned about a skin rash accompanied by norovirus symptoms.