How do I recognize a rubella rash?

A rubella rash is not the first sign of rubella, but it is the most easily identified symptom of the disease. As the disease runs its course, the rash will start on the face or neck before spreading to the torso and extremities, looking similar to a measles rash. In fact, rubella is commonly known as German measles because of the similarity of these rashes.

The rubella rash usually appears first on the neck or face and is usually the first symptom seen. There will be a small sore area, visible as a pink spot or a pinprick area. These patches are just under the skin, and the rash can be mistaken for hives, but a rubella rash will not be enlarged or irritated like hives. Rubella does not cause severe swelling or blisters, and if these symptoms are visible, rubella can be ruled out as a likely cause.

As the disease progresses, the rubella rash quickly spreads through the trunk, arms and legs, covering the entire body in a matter of hours. The buttocks are probably the most severely affected area. This rash can cause considerable discomfort, and the patient will be prone to scratching. Scratching can cause more irritation and should be discouraged.

Rubella rashes take three to five days to go away and will cause the skin to peel when doing so. By the end of the second day, the rubella rash will begin to fade, and this rapid fading is another indicator that rubella was responsible for triggering the rash. As this rash disappears, it leaves the skin dry and damaged. Dry skin falls off as small flakes sooner, exposing healthy skin underneath.

Skin changes are not the first visible symptoms of rubella, and knowing the early signs of rubella will help you identify the rash. The patient will have a fever before any rash is visible. Most of the time, it's a low-grade fever, usually below 37.8 degrees Celsius. Patients who have rubella may also have swollen lymph nodes, which can be identified by feeling gently behind the patient's ears.

Adolescents and adults may experience additional symptoms. Headache and joint pain are common symptoms of rubella. Fatigue, runny nose and mild conjunctivitis are also likely. When these symptoms are present, it may be helpful to check for a rubella rash.

Vaccination has made rubella rare in most developed countries, but in the 1990s and first decade of the 21st century, reports linking the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine with autism discouraged some parents from vaccinating their children. Later studies disputed the findings of this first report, finding no correlation between the MMR vaccine and autism, but could not categorically prove the link unfounded, meaning many people's fears remained. As a result, the number of rubella cases has increased dramatically over these decades.

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