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What is a Macular Rash?

Mary McMahon
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A macular rash is a skin rash which presents in the form of a number of small, flat red spots. It can appear anywhere on the body, and it may be caused by a variety of things, from allergic reactions to certain medications. Many macular rashes clear up on their own within two weeks, but the rash can sometimes be a sign of an underlying medical problem, so it is a good idea to see a dermatologist or a doctor for treatment when this type of rash appears. A doctor can determine the cause and make treatment recommendations.

In some cases, a macular rash combines flat reddened spots with raised reddened areas, in which case it is known as a macularpapular rash. The rash may feel itchy or hot, or the patient may not experience any sensations at the site, depending on the cause of the skin eruption. When a doctor provides treatment, he or she will usually want to know when the rash appeared, and if it has changed in size or shape. Doctors may also collect general information about the patient's lifestyle and habits to narrow down causes.

Autoimmune responses can cause this type of rash, as can diseases like syphilis, rheumatic fever, or measles. Certain drugs are known for causing this type of rash as a side effect, and macular rashes can also appear in response to skin irritation such as sunburn or contact with poisonous plants. In some cases, there may be no clear cause for the rash, in which case a doctor may request some medical tests like bloodwork to understand the patient's general physical condition.

Various topical preparations can be used to soothe a rash and to help it resolve more quickly. Anti-inflammatory drugs may also be administered to the patient with the goal of reducing the inflammation associated with the rash. The patient may also be advised to wear loose, comfortable clothing to avoid irritating the rash, and additional steps such as baths with baking soda or other additives may be recommended.

If a macular rash appears, it is not usually a medical emergency, but people should get treatment as soon as possible. If the rash appears in conjunction with life-threatening allergic reactions, high fever, or other severe symptoms, it is advisable to take the patient to the emergency room for immediate treatment. When taking a patient for emergency treatment, it helps to bring along the medications the patient is currently taking, and to have as much information as possible about the patient's activities in the last 24-48 hours. If the patient has existing medical conditions such as allergies, these should also be disclosed.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By naturesgurl3 — On Jul 23, 2010

@gregg1956 -- Macular rashes are flat skin rashes, papular rashes are a type of raised skin rash.

Not all raised skin rashes are papular though, they can also be papulosquamous, which is a mix of papules and scaly patches, vesicular, which consists of fluid filled blisters, or macular and papular, a combination of the two.

By gregg1956 — On Jul 23, 2010

What is the difference between a macular rash and a papular rash?

By pleats — On Jul 23, 2010

One possible cause of a macular rash is meningitis.

This can be one of the first signs of meningitis in children as well, so it's important to see a doctor immediately if the rash won't blanch (turn white when you press it with something, like a clear drinking glass), particularly if there is drowsiness and stiffness in the neck as well.

Not nearly all macular rashes are caused by meningitis, so seeing a macular rash should not be a cause of panic, but it's just something to be aware of.

By cmsmith10 — On Jul 11, 2010

Macular rashes usually present with flat, red spots on the skin. Any part of the body can be affected. It will usually go away on its own. There are usually underlying issues, however, that need to be addressed. Anytime you have a skin rash, you should let your doctor look at it and determine the cause of it.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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