Petechiae rash

Petechiae or Petechial rash is a spot of red or purple color caused due minor hemorrhage. These spots usually occur on legs which may appear like rash initially but actually they are in clusters. These are small rashes of less than 3 mm diameter.

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Petechial rash appear when blood vessels (capillaries) bleed and this blood is leaked into the skin. A number of factors like medical conditions, infections, trauma etc. can cause these capillaries to bleed. These rashes are not harmful and disappear on their own within few days.

There are certain features of petechiae that will help in early detection and differentiate these rashes from other diseases.

  • The size of the rash ranges from 0.3 mm to 3 mm. Usually it is of 0.4mm to 1mm in diameter. The petechiae spot is a tiny hemorrhagic spot and its larger form is known as purpura.
  • Typically petechiae can appear on any part of the body but it is most common in the areas like face, legs, thighs, ankles, back and shoulder.
  • The color of the rash changes with the passage of time. Initially it is red in color, changes to blue and finally becomes purple in color.
  • Petechial rash has a unique characteristic that it does not go white when subjected to pressure. For this, the glass test can be conducted in which rash is pressed with glass and rash will be still visible.


Petechial rash is usually a result of a trauma or an injury which in turn may be because of conditions like coughing, child birth, weightlifting, crying, vomiting or any activity related to prolonged straining.

There are certain medications too that can cause the condition. Some of these medicines include:

  • Atropine
  • Aspirin
  • Cimetidine
  • Carbamazepine
  • Desipramine
  • Indomethacin
  • Morphine
  • Naproxen
  • Nitrofurantoin
  • Penicillin
  • Quinine

Also, the  rash on the skin and inner surface of mouth can be a result of infectious diseases. Following are some of the viral, bacterial and fungal infections that may cause the issue-

  • Cytomegalovirus infection
  • Strep throat
  • Mononucleosis
  • Scarlet  fever
  • Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • Endocarditis
  • Parvovirus infection
  • Sepsis

Petechial rash can also be caused due to noninfectious medical conditions like Hemolytic uremic syndrome, Vitamin deficiency, infantile scurvy, Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura and vasculitis.

Conditions in children

There are many causes of petechial rash in children but some of them can be serious. Therefore it is imperative to seek medical care if rashes are caused by some serious condition:

Meningococcal infection: Often it starts as balanced rash and child may also have fever. In this condition rash may appear before eyes and can be very serious.

Idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura: The child may develop large bruises caused due to low platelet count. Mostly, this condition resolves on its own but sometimes treatment may be required.

Leukemia: leukemia is a cancer of bone marrow that causes low blood cells. In this condition the child becomes pale and develops rash.

Infections: Any severe infection is likely to interfere with normal body clotting system.

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The symptoms of petechiae depends on underlying condition along with spots. Infections which may lead to rash are often accompanied by malaise, fever and flu.

In the beginning, the rash appear red in color and is in the form of individual marks. After some days, these blotches stick together and become rash. Petechiae are flat spots that change their color over the course of time.

If you or your child develops such symptoms then you should see a healthcare provider immediately. It is necessary to find out the underlying cause before it becomes too late.


To diagnose petechiae, the doctor will ask about the patient’s history along with the physical examination of the rash. Usually, blood tests are done, which are as follows-

  • Platelet count
  • Total blood count
  • Bleeding time
  • Partial thromboplastin time
  • Prothrombin time

Your healthcare provider will ask to take up these tests to differentiate petechial rash from other conditions including:

  • Purpura
  • Scurvy
  • Hypersensitivity agilitis
  • Rickettsial spots
  • Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome
  • Thrombocytopenia


To begin with, petechial rash treatment begins with identifying the underlying cause and treating it.  If some medication is the cause of the rash, then stop taking that medicine immediately.

Antibiotics are prescribed if the rash is formed due to some infection.  These can cure the infection as well petechiae formation. In case, the rash is formed due to injury to blood capillaries, then ice packs and cold compress should be applied on the affected area.

If low platelet count is the cause, then platelet transfusion will alleviate petechiae formation. If rash are caused due to malignant conditions such as leukemia, then surgical treatment is required.

Petechiae pictures

Here are the images of petechial rash on various parts of the body.

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