Christmas Tree Rash Christmas tree rash is a relatively common skin condition. The medical name for it is pityriasis rosea. It typically starts with one large oval or oblong patch, called a herald patch or mother patch. This patch can be very large, up to four inches across, on the chest, back or stomach. It is usually pink or salmon-colored and may appear scaly. After about two weeks, smaller patches—or daughter patches—develop on the torso, or less commonly on the extremities. These daughter patches spread out in a pattern resembling branches of a pine tree. This pattern is what gives it its name.
See your doctor if you have a rash that persists for more than a few days. Christmas tree rash can last up to 10 weeks and usually clears on its own. Christmas tree rash treatment involves relieving bothersome symptoms, such as itching. Your doctor may recommend oral antihistamines, topical corticosteroids, and other skin-soothing remedies, such as oatmeal baths.
What other symptoms might occur with Christmas tree rash?
Pinkish mother and daughter patches are the main symptom of Christmas tree rash. The mother patch usually appears on the chest, back or stomach. Daughter patches usually spread across the torso in a sweeping pattern. Daughter patches rarely affect the extremities, hands, feet, face or scalp. Other Christmas tree rash symptoms include itching and scaliness. However, itching only occurs in about half of people with the rash. Itching can be severe, especially when the skin gets warm, such as after a hot shower.
Nearly 70% of people experience viral-like symptoms before the rash develops. This includes fever, fatigue, headache, or sore throat.
What causes Christmas tree rash?
Doctors do not fully understand what causes Christmas tree rash. They know it is not an allergic rash. Because people are often sick before it appears, it may have a viral cause. However, researchers have not been able to consistently isolate a virus in people with the rash. What’s more, Christmas tree rash does not seem to be contagious. So, if it is related to a virus, the virus may somehow trigger the rash in susceptible people. Some experts suggest a faulty autoimmune reaction to the virus may play a role.
Christmas tree rash is most common in people between ages 10 and 35. Once you have had Christmas tree rash, it is rare to get it again.
How is Christmas tree rash treated?
Christmas tree rash can be extensive and last two months or longer, but it usually clears on its own. For any rash that doesn’t clear up or improve within a few days, see a doctor for diagnosis and to rule out other possible causes of the rash.
If you have itching with the Christmas tree rash, oral antihistamines, topical corticosteroids, and other skin-soothing remedies, such as oatmeal baths, can help. You can buy these over the counter without a prescription. See your doctor if these products do not relieve your symptoms. You may need prescription-strength corticosteroids or, in severe cases, oral corticosteroids.
What are the potential complications of Christmas tree rash?
Christmas tree rash tends to be mild and rarely causes complications. It usually goes away on its own within several weeks. If itching is severe, it can lead to scratching, which can cause a skin infection. Using anti-itch medicines and keeping the skin cool can help relieve itching.
In people with dark skin, brown spots can linger after the rash is gone. These areas will gradually fade over several months.