Health Conditions A-Z Skin, Hair & Nail Conditions What Is a Maculopapular Rash? Maculopapular rashes look like a patch of discolored skin with raised bumps. The rash can be itchy and uncomfortable and form for a number of reasons. By Cristina Mutchler Cristina Mutchler Twitter Cristina Mutchler is a Peabody award-winning journalist, specializing in health and wellness content for over a decade. health's editorial guidelines Published on February 21, 2023 Medically reviewed by William Truswell, MD Medically reviewed by William Truswell, MD William Truswell, MD, FACS, operates his own cosmetic and reconstructive facial surgery practice. Dr. Truswell was the first in his area in Western Massachusetts to have an accredited private office surgical suite. learn more Share Tweet Pin Email In This Article View All In This Article What Does a Maculopapular Rash Look Like? Causes Diagnosis Treatment When to See a Healthcare Provider Getty Images A maculopapular rash is a type of skin rash that has raised bumps on discolored patches of skin. The rash can be itchy and uncomfortable. A maculopapular rash can be a symptom of an infection, an allergic reaction, or a number of other health conditions. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the rash, which is why it’s key to get a diagnosis from a healthcare provider. What Does a Maculopapular Rash Look Like? The term maculopapular rash describes a mix of flat, discolored areas of skin (macules) and raised bumps on the skin (papules). The bumps and surrounding patches of skin might appear red or pink in light skin tones. In darker skin tones, the rash can be more hyperpigmented or present in a varying shade of red. These rashes can show up virtually anywhere on your body. The size of the rash can vary, but maculopapular rashes typically affect a large area of skin. The rash also develops fairly quickly. In addition to the visual skin change, you might also experience itching. DermNet Causes When trying to determine the cause of your maculopapular rash, it can be helpful to think through: Medications you’ve just takenThe types of foods you’ve recently eatenViruses to which you may have been exposedExternal irritants with which you’ve come into contact That’s because a variety of medical conditions and external triggers can prompt a maculopapular rash. Medication Reaction If you’ve recently started taking a new over-the-counter or prescription medication and noticed a rash soon after, an adverse drug reaction might be the culprit. Maculopapular rashes can develop in reaction to medications like: Antibiotics, such as amoxicillinAnticonvulsantsAllopurinol, a gout medication with brand names like Lopurin and ZyloprimChemotherapyIbuprofen, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) with brand names like Advil and Motrin Depending on the drug, the rash can take anywhere from a day to a few weeks to develop. Food Allergy You might develop a maculopapular rash as part of your immune system’s response to coming in contact with a food to which you are allergic. In addition to the maculopapular rash, you may also notice symptoms such as: Difficulty breathingDizzinessSwellingStuffy noseVomitingStomach cramping Symptoms of an allergic reaction to food can begin within minutes to hours of having eaten the food. Prompt medical care may be needed to avoid serious complications. Bacterial or Viral Infection Various types of infections may cause a maculopapular rash. These include: COVID-19 Rubella Measles Scarlet fever Hand, foot, and mouth disease First-year baby rashes Fifth disease Zika virus Skin Conditions A maculopapular rash can develop with contact dermatitis, which happens when an irritant comes into contact with your skin. Common irritants that can lead to this reaction include: DetergentsBleachPlantsSoapsDisinfectants Diagnosis Getting a maculopapular rash checked out will involve a review of your medical history and a physical examination. The healthcare provider will likely ask you questions about: How long you’ve had the rashIf you have any other symptomsIf you’ve been in contact with anyone who has been sickIf you’ve recently traveled Whether you are up-to-date on your vaccinations From there, they’ll want to take a closer look at your skin. If needed, blood tests or a biopsy (a small skin sample) may be taken to help with the diagnosis. Treatment The goals for maculopapular rash treatment will be to address the underlying cause, ease symptoms, and clear your rash as quickly as possible. This might include: Antibiotics if the cause of the rash is a bacterial infectionAntiviral medications if the cause of the rash is a viral infectionAntihistamines to relieve itching from an allergen exposure If it’s determined that your rash was prompted by exposure to an allergen or irritant, it’ll likely be recommended to avoid the trigger. If medication is the suspected cause, a healthcare provider can determine whether the medication should be stopped or adjusted. Keep in mind that rashes can take days or sometimes weeks to fully clear and heal. When to See a Healthcare Provider If you notice a maculopapular rash developing, you should see a healthcare provider if it: Covers most of your bodyIs accompanied by a feverSpreads rapidlyBlistersIs painfulAppears infected A Quick Review A maculopapular rash is characterized by a mix of a flat, discolored area of skin (macule) and raised bumps (papules). A variety of infections, medical conditions, or substance exposures can trigger the rash. The amount of time a rash takes to develop—and how long it lasts—depends on the cause. Some maculopapular rashes go away on their own, while others might need treatment. Treatment options depend on the underlying cause, which a healthcare provider can help determine after an exam. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. 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