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Viral Skin Infections: Causes & Treatment - Expert Guide

Discover the causes and treatment for viral skin infections. Learn how to combat these infections effectively. Stay informed and protect your skin.

9 min read
Viral Skin Infections: Causes &  Treatment - Expert Guide

The  skin  is  the  body's  largest  organ  which  protects  it  from  several  types  of  infections.  However,  it  can  sometimes  get  infected  with  various  microbes  like  bacteria,  viruses,  and  fungi.  Among  these,  viral  infections  are  common  and  easily  spread  from  person  to  person.  

Continue  reading  to  learn  about  viral  skin  infections,  types,  diagnoses,  prevention,  and  treatment.

What  are  viruses?

You  might  have  often  heard  your  doctor  say,  "It's  just  the  virus!".  This  virus  is  a  tiny  microorganism,  invisible  to  the  naked  eye.  Yet,  we  are  surrounded  by  these  microscopic  germs  that  can  cause  harmless  infections  like  the  common  cold  to  life-threatening  diseases  like  AIDS.  

What  are  viral  skin  infections?

Viral  skin  infections  are  conditions  that  affect  the  skin.  There  are  several  viral  skin  infections,  some  of  which  are  immune  responses  to  a  virus,  and  some  are  skin  infections.  

Usually,  skin  gets  infected  when  viruses  enter  the  body  through  a  skin  wound,  crack,  or  cut.  However,  sometimes  when  skin  gets  rubbed  on  the  skin,  particularly  in  moist  areas,  other  skin  infections  may  develop.  Additionally,  infections  can  occur  if  a  part  of  the  body  has  inadequate  blood  flow  or  the  immune  system  is  compromised  due  to  another  illness  or  medical  procedure.  The  severity  of  viral  infections  ranges  from  entirely  harmless  to  serious  and  rarely  lethal.

Which  infections  are  viral?

1) Pityriasis  rosea

This  self-limiting  rash  affects  children  and  adults  between  the  ages  of  10  -35,  commonly  in  the  spring  and  autumn.  Pityriasis  rosea  causes  oval-shaped,  pale  red  patches  all  over  the  body,  face,  and  head.  Usually,  it  starts  with  larger  oval  patches  on  the  tummy  or  chest,  followed  by  dozens  or  even  hundreds  of  smaller  oval  patches.  Despite  their  awful  appearances,  they  can  hardly  be  felt.

2) Measles

Measles,  or  German  measles,  is  a  highly  contagious  viral  disease.  People  with  this  infection  have  the  virus  in  their  nose  and  throat.  The  virus  can  spread  through  direct  physical  contact,  coughing,  and  sneezing.  Like  pityriasis  rashes,  the  measles  rash  is  hardly  painful  but  has  an  awful  appearance.  The  infection  makes  you  feel  generally  unwell.

3) Hand,  foot,  and  mouth  disease  (HFMD)

The  Coxsackie  A16  virus  is  the  causative  virus  of  HFMD.  The  disease  typically  begins  with  feeling  unwell  for  a  day  or  two,  followed  by  little  spots  inside  the  mouth.  These  quickly  develop  into  little  mouth  ulcers.  

In  addition,  tiny  bumps  on  the  palms  and  soles  are  symptoms  of  HFMD.  These  rashes  aren't  painful  or  itchy,  but  they  can  be  uncomfortable.

4) Chickenpox

Chickenpox  is  a  viral  infection  caused  by  the  virus  varicella-zoster.  Chickenpox  commonly  affects  kids  below  the  age  of  10  years.  Chickenpox  symptoms  include  small,  dispersed  spots  all  over  the  body,  especially  on  the  chest  and  abdomen.  These  rashes  are  itchy  and  a  bit  uncomfortable.

5) Monkeypox

Monkeypox  is  a  rare  viral  infection  that's  caused  by  the  mpox  virus.  However,  it  can  occasionally  be  mistaken  for  chickenpox  due  to  its  rash,  especially  in  its  early  stages.  Monkeypox  blisters  initially  contain  clear  liquid  but  develop  murky  yellow-white  fluids  over  time.  

6) Molluscum  contagiosum

This  is  characterised  by  tiny,  pearly-white,  or  faintly  pink  warty  pimples  (Mollusca)  on  the  skin.  Molluscum  contagiosum  is  caused  by  a  virus  that  can  spread  through  contact  with  infected  skin  or  contaminated  towels,  blankets,  soft  toys,  etc.  Any  age  group  can  be  affected  by  molluscum  contagiosum;  however,  it's  more  common  in  children  of  1-4  years.  It  can  also  affect  adults,  especially  when  their  immune  system  is  compromised.

7) Herpes  simplex

Oral  herpes  and  genital  herpes  are  viral  skin  diseases  brought  on  by  the  herpes  simplex  virus,  or  HSV.  A  skin  rash  appears  from  herpes  simplex  virus  (HSV-1)  infection.  Burning  and  tingling  are  the  first  symptoms  of  HSV.  One  or  more  painful  blisters  may  also  develop.  The  scabs  take  many  days  to  form,  and  the  blisters  may  weep.

8) Orf

This  is  a  viral  skin  disease  transmitted  by  handling  sick  sheep  or  goats.  The  rash  typically  appears  on  the  face,  forearms,  fingers,  and  hands.  It  usually  goes  away  on  its  own  and  takes  around  six  weeks  to  heal.

Also Read: How to Cure Fungal Infection on Skin Naturally: 10 Proven Remedies

Chickenpox  symptoms

The  rash  and  other  chickenpox  symptoms  appear  after  10  to  21  days  of  exposure  to  the  varicella-zoster  virus.  Usually,  the  chickenpox  rash  has  three  stages  and  lasts  5  to  10  days:

  • Papules:  These  are  raised  bumps  that  appear  over  a  few  days.
  • Vesicles:  Vesicles  are  tiny  fluid-filled  blisters  that  appear  a  day  before  breaking  and  leaking.
  • Scabs  and  crusts:  These  cover  broken  blisters.

New  bumpy  rashes  keep  appearing  for  several  days.  So  one  might  simultaneously  see  bumps,  blisters,  and  scabs.

Other  chickenpox  symptoms  that  appear  one  to  two  days  before  the  rash  are:

  • Fever
  • Decreased  appetite
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • A  general  feeling  of  being  sick

Chickenpox  causes

The  varicella-zoster  virus  is  the  causative  microbe  of  chickenpox.  Anyone  who  directly  comes  in  contact  with  the  rash  can  get  infected.  It  can  also  spread  when  the  person  who  has  chickenpox  coughs  or  sneezes.

Those  who  never  had  chickenpox  or  the  vaccine  are  at  higher  risk  of  contracting  the  virus.  

Also Read: Unlocking the Secrets: A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Get Clear Skin

Chickenpox  treatment

Usually,  chickenpox  treatment  is  not  required.  However,  in  some  kids,  antihistamine  medication  is  used  to  reduce  itching.

In  people  at  high  risk  of  complications,  doctors  give  chickenpox  treatment  to  reduce  the  duration  of  the  disease.  For  instance:

  • Acyclovir  (Zovirax,  Sitavig),  an  antiviral  drug,  decreases  symptoms  of  chickenpox.
  • Antiviral  medications  like  valacyclovir  (Valtrex)  and  famciclovir  lessen  the  severity  of  the  sickness.


Measles  is  a  severe  respiratory  viral  disease.  The  main  culprit  behind  measles  is  a  virus  from  the  paramyxovirus  family.  It  spreads  through  direct  contact  and  the  air.  This  virus  infects  the  respiratory  tract  and  subsequently  spreads  throughout  the  body.

Measles  symptoms

Usually,  measles  symptoms  resemble  a  cold  and  progress  to  a  rash  a  few  days  later.  The  characteristic  measles  symptoms  include:

  • A  prodrome  of  fever  spiking  up  to  105°F
  • The  three  "Cs"  include  cough,  coryza  (runny  nose),  and  conjunctivitis  (inflammation  in  the  eyes)
  • A  specific  rash  called  Koplik  spots.  These  are  tiny,  red,  white,  or  grey  dots  in  the  mouth.

The  maculopapular  rash  usually  appears  14  days  after  exposure.  The  rash  first  appears  on  the  face  and  in  the  area  behind  the  ears.  Then  it  spreads  from  the  head  to  the  chest,  abdomen,  and  limbs.  Sometimes  the  raised  regions  of  these  rashes  merge  to  form  blotchy  patches.  The  person  remains  contagious  four  days  before  and  after  the  rashes  appear.

What  is  Molluscum  contagiosum?

This  is  a  viral  skin  infection  caused  by  a  virus  named  Molluscum  contagiosum.  This  virus  produces  painless,  raised  lumps  or  lesions  on  the  upper  skin  layers.  These  lesions  spread  through  direct  skin-to-skin  contact  with  an  infected  person  or  touching  an  item  contaminated  with  the  virus.  However,  the  rashes  rarely  leave  scars  and  resolve  on  their  own.

Molluscum  contagiosum  on  the  face

The  lesions  of  molluscum  contagiosum  on  the  face  vary  in  size  from  a  pinhead  to  the  size  of  a  pencil  eraser.  These  lesions  itch  and  then  become  red,  sore,  and  painful.  Molluscum  contagiosum  on  the  face  appears  after  2-6  weeks  after  the  infection.  If  the  patient's  immune  system  is  good,  it  goes  away  on  its  own  in  2-3  months  without  treatment.

Also Read: Amazing Skin Tightening Home Remedies To Prevent Skin from Sagging

Molluscum  contagiosum  symptoms

The  molluscum  contagiosum  symptoms  are  the  lesions  that  can  be  seen  on  the  face,  neck,  arms,  legs,  belly,  and  genital  region.  Rarely  these  lesions  are  found  on  the  soles  or  the  palms.  These  lesions  are

  • Small,  elevated,  typically  white,  pink,  or  flesh-coloured,  with  a  dimple  or  pit  in  the  middle.
  • Have  a  pearly  appearance.
  • The  papule  ranges  from  a  pinhead  to  a  pencil  rubber  (2  to  5  millimetres  diameter).
  • These  lesions  can  become  bloated,  red,  itchy,  or  sore.
  • Papules  can  be  stiff  initially  but  may  eventually  soften.
  • A  clear  to  white  fluid  may  leak  from  the  papule.

Usually,  the  molluscum  contagiosum  symptoms  clear  off  within  a  few  weeks  without  treatment.  If  the  lesions  persist,  various  molluscum  contagiosum  treatment  options  like  cryotherapy,  curettage,  scraping,  and  laser  therapy  can  be  helpful.


Warts  are  growths  that  appear  when  a  virus  called  Human  papillomavirus  (HPV)  enters  the  upper  layer  of  the  skin.  Warts  are  frequently  skin-coloured,  rough,  and  flat.  Sometimes,  they  can  be  dark,  brown,  or  grey-black.  In  addition,  wart  viruses  are  contagious  and  can  spread  by  coming  in  contact  with  the  wart.

Warts  cause

The  leading  cause  of  warts  is  the  Human  Papillomavirus  (HPV),  which  causes  excess  keratin  growth  (a  hard  protein)  on  your  skin  layers.  However,  because  everyone's  immune  system  responds  to  the  virus  differently,  not  everyone  exposed  to  HPV  gets  a  wart.  

Besides,  the  infection  spreads  much  faster  if  you  cut  yourself  or  damage  your  skin.  

The  following  are  some  ways  this  virus  can  spread  to  other  body  parts:

  • Shaving  the  face  or  legs,  biting  fingernails,
  • A  damp  or  injured  skin,  like  a  cut
  • A  person  with  suppressed  or  impaired  immune  system
  • Warts  are  likely  to  appear  on  those  handling  raw  meat,  such  as  butchers.

Can  warts  be  prevented?

Warts  cannot  be  prevented,  but  you  can  always  lower  the  risk  of  spreading  by.

  • Avoiding  picking,  touching,  or  scratching  your  or  anyone  else's  warts
  • Washing  your  hands  after  wart  removal
  • Keeping  your  foot  warts  dry
  • Wearing  waterproof  sandals  or  flip-flops  in  public  restrooms,  locker  rooms,  and  areas  near  public  pools.

What  are  the  symptoms  of  a  skin  infection?

Different  microorganisms  cause  skin  infections,  and  the  symptoms  can  range  from  mild  to  serious.  Bacteria,  viruses,  fungi,  or  parasites  can  cause  skin  infections.  The  symptoms  differ  depending  on  the  kind  of  skin  infection.  The  symptoms  of  skin  infections  include

  • A  rash  and  skin  redness
  • Itching
  • Soreness
  • Tenderness
  • Pus-filled  blisters  

Severe  skin  infection  symptoms  include:

  • Black  or  discolouration  of  the  skin
  • Painful  pus  or  blood
  • Necrotic  skin  appearance

Also read: 8 Amazing Honey Benefits for Skin We Bet You Didn’t Know About

What  do  viral  skin  infections  feel  like?

A  viral  skin  infection  can  feel  different  according  to  the  causative  microbe  and  severity.  It  can  itch,  sting,  burn,  ache,  hurt,  discomfort,  or  pain.  In  addition,  the  appearance  of  viral  skin  rashes  differs  from  welts,  red,  brown,  to  purple  blotches.  For  instance,

  • The  pityriasis  rosea  has  oval  pale  red  patches  all  over  the  body.
  • Hand,  foot,  and  mouth  disease  has  small  bumps  on  the  palms,  soles,  and  mouth  that  are  painful  or  itchy.
  • Chickenpox  rashes  are  small,  spread  all  over  the  body  that  are  sore  and  itchy.
  • Monkeypox  rashes  are  blisters  filled  with  clear  or  cloudy  yellow-white  liquid.
  • Cold  sores  have  itchy,  tingly  rashes  over  the  edge  of  your  lip.
  • Molluscum  contagiosum  rashes  are  clustered  together  on  limbs.

How  is  a  skin  infection  diagnosed?

A  thorough  medical  examination  is  the  best  way  to  diagnose  any  skin  infection.  In  addition,  doctors  can  often  detect  the  type  of  skin  infection  based  on  the  location  and  appearance.  For  instance,  ringworm  has  a  characteristic  circular,  scaly  rash.  

Your  doctor  will  ask  whether  you  have  lumps,  rashes,  or  lesions  and  carefully  examine  them  before  the  final  diagnosis.  If  your  doctor  cannot  diagnose  viral  skin  infections,  he  may  recommend  you  to  a  dermatologist  specialising  in  treating  skin  conditions.  In  some  circumstances,  a  sample  of  skin  cells  can  assist  your  doctor  in  identifying  the  type  of  infection.  In  addition,  a  blood  test  may  be  requested  if  you  have  a  rash  resembling  mumps  or  measles.

How  to  treat  a  viral  skin  infection?

Viral  skin  infections  do  not  require  any  treatment.  The  rashes  typically  go  away  as  the  virus  clears  and  your  body  heals.  However,  treating  the  underlying  virus  may  lessen  symptoms  like  pain,  itchiness,  and  discomfort  with  some  antiviral  medications.

For  instance

  • Applying  a  topical  lotion  to  relieve  itching,  such  as  calamine  lotion.
  • A  doctor  might  recommend  paracetamol  to  treat  pain  or  antihistamines  to  lower  itching.  


What  are  viral  skin  infections?

Viral  skin  infections  are  infectious  conditions  caused  by  viruses.  Some  viral  infections  are  due  to  viruses  in  your  body,  while  some  are  due  to  your  skin  contacting  them.  These  can  be  mild  to  severe,  rarely  life-threatening.  Viral  skin  infections  can  look  like  bumps,  red,  brown,  or  purple  blotches,  or  tiny  spots.  Although  viral  skin  infections  can  affect  anyone,  they  are  more  prevalent  in  infants  and  young  children.

What  are  the  common  viral  skin  infections?

Some  common  viral  skin  infections  are:

  • Measles
  • Chickenpox
  • Erythema  infectiosum
  • Roseola
  • Pityriasis  rosea
  • Hand,  foot,  and  mouth  disease
  • Laterothoracic  exanthem
  • Smallpox
  • Monkeypox

What  are  the  symptoms  of  viral  skin  infections?

Viral  skin  diseases  have  skin  rashes  that  vary  depending  upon  their  causative  agents.  For  instance,  some  are  macular,  papular,  red  rashes,  pus-filled  blisters,  cluster  lesions,  pale,  pearl-like  vesicles,  or  dry  papules.  In  addition  to  skin  symptoms,  viral  skin  diseases  present  with

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Sore  throat
  • Nasal  congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Runny  nose
  • Cough
  • Body  aches
  • Fatigue

Usually,  these  symptoms  remain  for  three  days  to  a  week  and  gradually  improve.

How  are  viral  skin  infections  diagnosed?

Skin  lesions  are  characteristic  of  most  viral  skin  diseases  and  are  diagnosed  with  their  unique  appearance.  The  doctor  will  analyse  your  symptoms  and  examine  the  rashes  before  giving  the  final  diagnosis.  If  the  doctor  needs  to  differentiate  between  similar-appearing  lesions,  he  may  also  request  some  blood  tests  for  diagnosis.

How  can  I  prevent  viral  skin  infections?

Here  are  some  tips  that  can  help  you  prevent  viral  skin  infections

  • Frequently  wash  your  hands
  • Wash  and  clean  cuts,  wounds,  scrapes,  or  insect  bites  immediately
  • Avoid  sharing  towels,  blades,  bathing  soap,  apparel,  or  toys.
  • Cut  your  fingernails  regularly
  • Avoid  direct  skin  contact  with  a  person  with  the  viral  skin  infection

Are viral  skin  infections  contagious?

Most  viral  skin  infections  are  contagious.  Some  of  them  spread  via

  • Cough,  nasal  discharge,  or  air  droplet  like  common  flu
  • Direct  skin-to-skin  contact
  • Contact  with  any  infected  item,  like  a  surface,  towel,  razor,  brush,  etc.

Can  viral  skin  infections  recur?

Except  for  herpes  simplex,  viral  skin  diseases  that  have  once  been  infected  usually  do  not  recur.  This  is  because,  as  with  the  first  viral  infection,  your  body  produces  proteins  called  antibodies  that  fight  infection  and  boost  your  immune  system.  This  response  prevents  reinfection  from  the  same  virus.  However,  in  conditions  where  your  immune  system  is  compromised,  like  in  HIV,  viral  infections  can  reoccur.


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