Several conditions can cause a cough and a rash to appear together, such as allergies and viruses.

Coughing is the body’s natural response to blockages or irritants in the airways. Colds, flu, asthma, and allergies could all cause a cough.

Doctors describe a rash as an area of swollen or irritated skin. It might look like pimples, blisters, or spots.

The treatments for a combination of cough and rash combined depends on what is causing the symptoms.

In this article, we will look at some of the most common causes of a combination of a cough and a rash. We will also examine how to treat a cough and rash, and when to see a doctor.

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Some of the most common causes of a cough and skin rash include:

Allergies

Many people have allergies. Allergies occur when the immune system registers something as a threat, such as:

  • pollen
  • dust mites
  • mold spores
  • pet hair
  • certain foods

Doctors call these things allergens.

Typical allergy symptoms include:

  • cough
  • rash
  • sneezing
  • itching
  • swelling

An allergic reaction will typically start soon after a person encounters the allergen. The rash, which is usually itchy, might be mild or severe, depending on the person.

With some allergies, a person might also develop hives. Hives are pale bumps that might itch, burn, or sting.

Learn more about what allergic reaction rashes look like here.

Treatment

Mild allergic reactions usually improve without treatment. Many people with mild allergies either try to avoid the allergen or take over-the-counter medicines called antihistamines.

If someone has a severe allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis, they need immediate medical attention. With anaphylaxis, the body’s immune system causes severe, life-threatening symptoms that can affect multiple parts of the body.

Learn more about how anaphylaxis can affect the body here.

COVID-19

The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 can cause the disease COVID-19. COVID-19 mostly affects the lungs and can be severe in older people and those with underlying health conditions.

The main symptoms of COVID-19 are a fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath. Other symptoms may include:

Some people with COVID-19 may also develop a rash. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the rash could appear as:

  • patches
  • itchy bumps
  • chickenpox-like blisters
  • pinpoint spots
  • a lace-like pattern
  • joined-up flat spots and raised bumps

Learn more about the early symptoms of COVID-19 here.

Treatment

Current treatments for COVID-19 include the following drugs:

At present, remdesivir is the only drug will full approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Most people recover without seeing a doctor, but some people need hospital treatment.

Anyone who has symptoms of COVID-19 should follow their local guidelines. They may need to get a COVID-19 test. People can find the latest information on testing on their local or state health department’s website.

Learn more about treatments for COVID-19 here.

For more advice on COVID-19 prevention and treatment, visit our coronavirus hub.

In children, the most common causes of a cough and rash include:

Measles

Anyone who has not had a measles vaccination can develop measles. Measles is highly contagious, meaning it spreads quickly, and it can be severe. For some people, it can be fatal.

Measles can be severe for all age groups. However, some groups are more likely to experience complications from measles, including:

  • children under 5 years old
  • people who are pregnant
  • adults over 20 years old
  • people with compromised immune systems

A fever is usually the first sign of measles, along with a cough, runny nose, and red, watery eyes. People may also notice small white spots inside the cheeks.

A rash tends to develop after several days. It often starts on the face and neck and spreads across the body to the hands and the feet. The rash tends to fade after 5–6 days.

Treatment

No antiviral treatments exist for measles. People can avoid complications by ensuring the body has everything it needs to fight the infection. That includes nutritious food and plenty of fluids.

Children with measles sometimes need vitamin A supplements, which can help prevent eye damage.

Sometimes, measles can lead to eye and ear infections or pneumonia. When this happens, doctors will usually prescribe antibiotics.

Roseola

Roseola is a viral infection that causes a skin rash and a high fever. It most commonly affects infants between the ages of 6–12 months. It can affect adults, but this is rare. Doctors might call roseola sixth disease or exanthema subitum.

The first sign of roseola is a high temperature, which may last for 3–5 days. The child will then usually develop a pink rash on the torso, which might spread to the:

  • arms
  • legs
  • neck
  • face

Other symptoms may include:

  • red eyes
  • sore throat and cough
  • runny nose
  • irritability

Treatment

Roseola will usually get better without treatment. In the meantime, home remedies can help ease symptoms, such as:

  • rest
  • enough fluids
  • cool sponge baths
  • over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen

People can ease cough symptoms at home by taking OTC cough medicines or having a spoonful of honey.

OTC cough remedies are not recommended for children due to both a lack of efficacy and potential risks.

Caregivers should not give honey to any children under the age of 1 year due to the risk of infant botulism.

To soothe an itchy rash, people can try applying a cold, wet cloth or ice pack to the affected area or moisturizing the skin.

Some rashes, such as those from an allergic reaction, can be treated with nonsteroidal creams, oatmeal baths, OTC anti-itch lotions such as calamine, or OTC antihistamines, such as Benadryl or Zyrtec.

Learn more about cough and cold medications here.

Learn more about toddler cough home remedies here.

If someone is experiencing color changes, hives or swelling on the skin along with other symptoms of anaphylaxis, they need emergency medical attention. Those are:

  • itching or swelling in the lips, tongue, or throat
  • vomiting, diarrhea, or cramps
  • dizziness or passing out

People who suspect they have COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider as they may need to get a COVID test. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that anyone experiencing the following symptoms should seek medical care immediately:

  • trouble breathing
  • continuous pain or pressure in the chest
  • a blue tinge to the lips or face
  • inability to wake or stay awake
  • new confusion

The complications of measles can be severe. Anyone with a child showing symptoms of the condition should speak to a doctor immediately. The best way to prevent measles is vaccination.

There are many causes of cough and a rash. Allergies and viruses are the most common causes.

Some viruses and mild allergies will clear up without treatment. Anyone who is having a severe allergic reaction or difficulty breathing should seek medical attention immediately. Children with suspected measles also require urgent medical attention.

People who have symptoms of COVID-19 may need to take a test and seek medical advice.