7 Signs Your Skin Is Trying to Tell You You Have Coronavirus

If you've had itchy rashes or strange bumps lately, take note. Some coronavirus symptoms are just skin deep.

Every day, we're learning more about the coronavirus and the strange and unique ways that it presents itself. And recently, there have been some developments that indicate the virus could be manifesting in other places besides your lungs and stomach. If you've had itchy rashes or strange bumps on your arms, legs, knees, or toes lately, take note. Because it turns out, some coronavirus symptoms actually emerge on your skin.

"We don't understand exactly why, but many viruses that cause upper respiratory tract infections also causes rashes in the skin," Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, told Prevention. "Perhaps these are the result of our immune system reacting [to] the virus or the virus may have a direct effect on the skin itself."

In fact, "there are multiple skin reactions at this point of COVID-19 infection," Dawn Davis, MD, chair of the clinical dermatology division at the Mayo Clinic, told Yahoo! Lifestyle. She added that people should be aware of the coronavirus' effect on the skin, "even if they have no other symptoms consistent with COVID-19." To learn more, read on for seven symptoms of the coronavirus that could be popping up on your skin. And for more symptoms to be aware of, check out 6 New Coronavirus Symptoms the CDC Wants You to Know.


Hives on arm

The medical term is "urticaria," but it's more commonly known as hives. In late March, an Italian physician submitted a letter to the editor of the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, describing skin conditions in COVID-19 patients. According to his research, about 20 percent of the 88 COVID-19 patients analyzed in the Lombardy region of Italy had some sort of rash. Three percent of the patients specifically had "widespread urticaria."

"Some patients with COVID-19 have presented with small to medium hives that spread over their body and then expand in size—although for some patients they stay the same in size," Davis told Yahoo! Lifestyle.

Chickenpox-like bumps

young girl with chickenpox scratching her back

In the same Italian study, one of the 88 coronavirus patients exhibited a chickenpox-like rash. And in another study in Italy, doctors noted that a chicken pox-esque rash is "a rare but specific COVID-19-associated skin manifestation." The difference between these COVID-19 bumps and chicken pox is that the former is less likely to itch—nine of the 22 patients studied had no itching and six had mild itching. And for more COVID-19 symptoms to be aware of in kids, check out 7 Signs Your Child Could Have Coronavirus.

A purplish tree pattern on your legs or arms

livedo rash on woman's arm

What may look like varicose veins could actually be a rash related to COVID-19. The medical term is "livedo reticularis" and, according to the Mayo Clinic, it is "a vascular condition characterized by a mottled, purplish discoloration of the skin, usually on the legs." "Some patients with COVID are getting a livedo pattern on their skin," Davis confirmed to Yahoo! Lifestyle. In fact, in a study out of Spain of 375 COVID-19 patients, six percent exhibited livedo.

Red rashes that spread out

woman scratching her back

According to Time, in early April, a dermatology organization representing more than 400 French dermatologists reported that the doctors had seen skin symptoms like red rashes among probable COVID-19 patients. Rajeev Fernando, MD, an infectious disease expert in Southampton, New York, told Prevention that he's seen rashes "a lot" in coronavirus patients. "It's often an erythematous [red] rash," he told the outlet, adding that it can be "diffused, or spread out."

A pink, itchy rash across your torso and limbs

rash on torso

Alisa Femia, MD, director of inpatient dermatology and a specialist in autoimmune connective tissue disease at NYU Langone, told Time that "patients who end up hospitalized [for COVID-19] often develop a pink, itchy rash across their torso and limbs." And for more signs of COVID-19 you need to know, check out 7 Silent Symptoms of Coronavirus Seniors Need to Know.

Small red, brown, or purple spots

petechiae on knee due to bruise

A paper published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology reported that in Thailand, one COVID-19 patient developed a skin rash called "petechiae," which are "round spots that appear on the skin as a result of bleeding. The bleeding causes the petechiae to appear red, brown or purple," according to the Mayo Clinic. In fact, the patient was originally misdiagnosed with dengue fever, which is common in Thailand and often causes petechiae. It was only later that the subject was diagnosed with COVID-19. As a result, the doctors who published the report warned: "There is a possibility that a patient with COVID-19 might initially present with a skin rash that can be misdiagnosed as another common disease." And for more misdiagnoses, check out The 20 Most Misdiagnosed Men's Health Issues.

COVID toes

Person rubbing their foot in pain

Purple, blue, or red discoloration of the toes—also known as COVID toes—has been a growing symptom of the coronavirus. Ebbing Lautenbach, MD, chief of infectious disease at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine, told USA Today that COVID toes are "typically painful to touch and could have a hot burning sensation." They're also often mistaken for frostbite. In the previously mentioned study out of Spain, 19 percent of patients experienced COVID toes.

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