Viral Skin Infections - Symptoms

What do viral skin conditions feel like?

  • Pityriasis rosea gives you oval-shaped pale red patches scattered pretty much over all your body, apart from your face and head. It usually starts with a slightly bigger oval, typically on your tummy or chest, and then dozens, even hundreds, of tiny ovals come out. Although they look really bad, you can't really feel them at all.
  • Similarly, with the rash of measles or mumps you can't really feel it at all even though it looks really bad: you just feel generally ill from the virus.
  • Hand, foot and mouth disease causes tiny bumps - on the palms of your hands, the soles of your feet and even in your mouth. They can be a little bit uncomfortable but aren't actually painful or itchy.
  • Chickenpox gives small spots, scattered around the body. They are a bit sore and a bit itchy. They are almost always found on your tummy and chest. If the spots are just on your arms and legs but not on your tummy then it probably isn't chickenpox.
  • Cold sores cause a slightly itchy, tingly spot that is usually just on the edge of your lip.
  • Molluscum contagiosum gives you small white spots, usually clustered together on your arm or leg, rather than all over your body. They generally can't be felt at all and aren't itchy. Sometimes they get infected and feel a bit sore but this is unusual.
  • Herpes simplex gives you tiny red spots which are really painful, more than itchy.
  • Orf causes quite a big bump, usually on your finger. Although it looks weird, it's not actually painful.
pityriasis rosea with typical herald patch. open access

This pictures shows the typical 'herald patch' of pityriasis rosea and the pale ovals that cover almost the whole tummy and chest. It fades in a few weeks to a few months and isn't contagious.

cold sore on lip open access

This is a typical cold sore on someone's lip. It is tingly and a bit sore. It'll go away in a few weeks but if you kiss them you can catch it!

molluscum contagiosum on face open access

These are the typical spots of molluscum contagiosum: they are harmless and not particularly contagious. They do go away but only after a year or two. They are best left alone.

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Dr Oliver Starr
Peer Reviewer:
Prof Cathy Jackson
Document ID:
29415 (v1)
Last Checked:
23 July 2017
Next Review:
22 July 2020

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.