Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Pityriasis Rosea


Am Fam Physician. 2004 Jan 1;69(1):94.

What is pityriasis rosea?

Pityriasis rosea is a scaly, reddish-pink skin rash. (Say: pit-ih-rye-ah-sis row-see-ah) It is most common in children and young adults.

If you get this skin condition, you may feel like you have a cold at first. Then, a single scaly red spot may appear on your back or stomach. This is called a “herald patch.” Smaller spots will develop on your body days to weeks later. The rash may itch badly. If the rash is on your back, it may have the shape of a Christmas tree.

What causes pityriasis rosea?

The cause of pityriasis rosea is uncertain. Some doctors believe that pityriasis rosea is caused by a viral or bacterial infection. Certain medicines also can cause this rash. Pityriasis rosea is not contagious, and people with this rash do not have to be kept away from other people.

What conditions look like pityriasis rosea?

The rash of pityriasis rosea can look like eczema, ringworm, or psoriasis. Infection with syphilis also can cause a similar rash. If your doctor wonders if you might have syphilis, he or she will order a blood test.

How long does pityriasis rosea last?

Pityriasis rosea usually lasts one to three months. Let your doctor know if the rash or itching lasts longer than three months.

How is pityriasis rosea treated?

The rash usually goes away on its own. No treatment can cure it, but medicine can relieve your itching. Your doctor might have you use antihistamine pills, a steroid cream, calamine lotion, or zinc oxide cream. Sometimes people with pityriasis rosea have to take steroid pills.

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2004 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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