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What is a Maculopapular Rash?

What is a Maculopapular Rash?

A maculopapular rash is made of both flat and raised skin lesions. The name is a blend of the words “macule,” which are flat discolored skin lesions, and “papule,” which are small raised bumps. These skin lesions are usually red and can merge together. Macules that are bigger than 1 centimeter are patches, while papules that are merged together are plaques. A maculopapular rash is a marker for many diseases, allergic reactions, and infections. Most commonly, the cause is a viral infection. See a doctor if you have a maculopapular rash because the rash could indicate a serious disease.


Rubeola (Measles) - Maculopapular rash due to measles is very common among children. It begins appearing on the hairline and behind the ears and afterwards spreads through trunk and extremities. When the rash desquamates and becomes brownish, it is starting to fade away. The order on which it appeared follows the order on when it fades away.

Rubella (German Measles) - Maculopapular rash caused by Rubella starts to appear on the face and then spreads downwards.

Roseola (Exanthema Subitum) - This occurs in children less than 3 years old. The maculopapular rash is scattered although the face is often unaffected. It appears after the fever disappears.

Infectious Mononucleosis - Older children and adolescents are affected by this kind of infection. The rash can be seen on the trunks and arms.


A maculopapular rash looks like red bumps on a flat, red patch of skin. The reddish area may not show up if your skin is dark. The rash is sometimes itchy, and it can last from two days to three weeks depending on the cause. Moreover, how quickly the rash appears and where it appears on your body differs depending on the cause of the rash. It can spread anywhere on the body, from the face down to the limbs. In some cases, your doctor may ask where the rash started on the body. This can help the doctor narrow down potential causes. Since maculopapular rashes are most common in infections and body immune responses, more than one symptom may also appear. These include:

  • fever
  • headache
  • vomiting
  • breathing troubles
  • muscle pain
  • dry skin


There can be so many reasons why a maculopapular rash develops. Yet, it remains to be only a symptom, and not a medical condition, which means that it is extremely beneicial to find the underlying cause of the rash. This first involves an assessment of the patient’s symptoms and medical history including previous medical conditions and any medications they may be taking. In this step, the doctor may have to examine your genitals to check for rashes and rule out STIs.

If the rash developed after the individual was prescribed a certain medication that can quickly lead to a conclusion. Other cases are simpler to determine, such as unprotected sex prior to the development of the rash. The doctor will also have to examine the site to determine whether it is truly a maculopapular rash based on the characteristics described in the first section. Afterward, laboratory tests are done to find other causes if the previous ones are not relevant to this condition.


Once the cause of the rash has been identified, treatment is targeted at the specific cause, and hopefully the rash will disappear after a few days. This is usually the best way of treating a maculopapular rash because it targets the root cause. If the cause is a drug reaction, the doctor can alter your medication, reduce your dosage or offer you an anti-allergy medication to reduce the reaction. Nevertheless, some kinds of pain relievers may still be offered, often in the form of a cream, to reduce pain or itchiness caused by the rash.

There is a wide range of causes for this type of rash and a variety of outcomes. Allergic reactions and minor reactions to drugs generally clear up quickly. Most childhood viral and bacterial infections have a known and limited course. Once your doctor diagnoses the cause of the condition, they’ll be able to provide an outlook based on your case.