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Pityriasis rosea: Tips for managing

Care warning

Never apply a product that fights fungus, controls tinea, or treats candida to your rash, as these can worsen pityriasis rosea.

person applying lotion

While the rash will go away on its own without treatment, self-care can help you feel more comfortable while you have the rash. Here’s what dermatologists recommend for their patients who have pityriasis rosea.

Try to prevent overheating. Heat can worsen the rash and the itch. To reduce the risk of overheating:

  • Avoid hot temperatures whenever possible.

  • Stop strenuous activities while you have the rash.

  • Stay out of hot tubs and whirlpools.

Reduce discomfort due to showers, baths, and skin care products. Hot water and strong soaps can worsen the rash and the itch. If your rash doesn’t itch, taking a hot shower or using a strong soap can trigger an itch.

To avoid this, dermatologists recommend the following while you have the rash:

  • Stop applying the following to skin with a rash: Skin care products labeled “antibacterial” and ones that contain fragrance or deodorant.

  • Take lukewarm (or as cool as you can tolerate) baths and showers.

  • Use a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser, body wash, or soap.

  • Apply a gentle, fragrance-free moisturizer to all dry skin within 3 minutes of getting out of a shower or bath.

Choose fragrance-free products

A product labeled “unscented” contains fragrance that you cannot smell, so it can irritate your skin. Be sure to choose fragrance-free skin care products.

woman shopping in store

Protect the rash from sunburn. Getting a sunburn while you have pityriasis rosea can feel miserable. To reduce the risk of sunburn, dermatologists recommend that you:

  • Cover the rash with loose-fitting clothes.

  • Seek shade whenever possible.

  • Apply a gentle, fragrance-free sunscreen to all skin that clothing won’t cover, using a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and broad-spectrum protection.

If you have a rash on your face that makes you feel embarrassed, use a concealer. To avoid irritating the rash, use a concealer formulated for sensitive skin.

Treat the itch. The rash is often itchy, and sometimes severely itchy. To relieve the itch at home, dermatologists recommend that you:

  • Hold a cool compress on your itchy skin. To make a cool compress, place a clean washcloth under cool, running water. Once it’s soaked, wring out the excess water and apply the washcloth to your itchy skin. Keep the compress on the itchy area for 3 to 5 minutes.

  • Apply pramoxine lotion, hydrocortisone cream, or calamine lotion to itchy skin. If you’re treating a child younger than 12 years of age, check with the child’s pediatrician before applying any of these. When you want to apply this to a large area, apply a small amount first. If you don’t get a reaction within 24 hours, then apply to a larger area.

  • To prevent the itch from waking you and keeping you awake, take an antihistamine pill at bedtime. To prevent itchiness while you’re awake, you can take an antihistamine that says “non-drowsy” on the package.

When to contact a dermatologist

While the rash of pityriasis rosea can often be cared for at home, you should seek medical care if the rash worsens or lasts longer than 3 months.

Getty Images

Drago F, Broccolo F, et al. “Pityriasis rosea: An update with a critical appraisal of its possible herpesviral etiology.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2009;61:303-18.

Kunin A. "Pityriasis rosea: Relief for a little-known rash." In: The DERMAdoctor Skinstruction Manual. Simon & Schuster. United States, 2005:197-201.

Wood GS, Reizner GT. “Other papulosquamous disorders.” In: In: Bolognia JL, et al. Dermatology. (fourth edition). Mosby Elsevier, China, 2018:170-2.

Yosipovitch G and Kwatra SG. “Unique types of itch.” In: Living with itch: A patient’s guide. The Johns Hopkins University Press. United States, 2013:94-4.