- Pityriasis rosea is a common, mild skin rash with a pink, scaly and inflamed appearance.
- Pityriasis rosea is most common in children and young adults, but can occur at any age.
- The first sign of pityriasis rosea is usually a round or oval patch on the chest, belly or back.
- Most treatments for pityriasis rosea aim to soothe the skin and relieve itching.
- The rash usually lasts between 1 to 3 months and leaves no permanent marks.
What is pityriasis rosea?
Pityriasis rosea is a mild skin rash with a pink, scaly and inflamed appearance. The condition is quite common, and it is not serious. It is most common in children and young adults but can occur at any age.
The rash usually lasts between 1 to 3 months and leaves no permanent marks. People with dark skin may notice lasting brown spots after the rash has healed.
Once it is gone, pityriasis rosea usually does not come back.
What are the symptoms of pityriasis rosea?
The first sign of pityriasis rosea is usually a round or oval patch on the chest, belly or back. The patch is usually pink or tan and is referred to as a “herald patch” as it comes first, before the other skin lesions.
Over the next couple of weeks, smaller pink or tan patches appear on areas such as the back, neck, arms or legs. The pattern of these patches can look like drooping pine-tree branches and is sometimes called a “Christmas tree pattern”.
If you have pityriasis rosea, you may also notice that you:
- feel tired
- have aches and pains
- are itchy, sometimes severely
- have a cold, sore throat or fever before the rash develops
Pityriasis rosea on a person's abdomen
Close-up of pityriasis rosea on skin
What causes pityriasis rosea?
The cause of pityriasis rosea is not known but doctors think it may be caused by viruses or bacteria, vaccines or various medicines. It is probably not contagious.
When should I see my doctor?
Contact your doctor if your rash gets worse, it gets swollen or infected, or it does not go away in 8 weeks.
If you develop pityriasis rosea when you are pregnant, see your doctor, as in rare cases it can lead to complications.
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How is pityriasis rosea diagnosed?
Doctors can usually diagnose the rash of pityriasis rosea just by looking at it. Your doctor may take a scraping for testing or do a blood test to rule out other conditions.
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How is pityriasis rosea treated?
Most treatments for pityriasis rosea aim to soothe the skin and relieve itching. They include:
- corticosteroid cream or ointment, which may also decrease redness
- using a gentle soap-free wash
- using moisturiser
If you have pityriasis rosea, avoid having a hot bath or sauna, as heat can make the itching worse.
Natural or artificial sunlight can help fade the rash, but in some people, this can cause lasting dark patches.
Can pityriasis rosea be prevented?
Pityriasis rosea can’t be prevented.
Complications of pityriasis rosea
Pityriasis rosea is usually harmless and has no complications. Occasionally, it can cause pregnancy complications, including miscarriage and premature birth. If you have pityriasis rosea and are pregnant, you should see your doctor.
Another complication of pityriasis rosea is prolonged skin discolouration.
Resources and support
For more information about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of pityriasis rosea, visit the The Australasian College of Dermatologists.
Call healthdirect on 1800 022 222 at any time to speak to a registered nurse (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria) for more information and advice.
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Last reviewed: July 2023