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Anonymous on September 19, 2011

Is an all-body rash a symptom of herpes?

My brother’s girlfriend has had a rash for about six weeks, and my brother got it about a week after being with her. The rash covers their entire bodies and it blisters. I think it sounds like herpes, but could it be something else?

answered by Lisa Oldson, MD on September 19, 2011

Thanks for your question. I appreciate how concerned you are about the health of your brother and his girlfriend. While I can’t diagnose them without an examination, I’m happy to offer you my best thoughts for your consideration. 

First, it’s sounds unlikely that your brother and his girlfriend have herpes. Why? Herpes generally doesn't cover the entire body. Also, the blisters from herpes are so tiny and fragile, and they break open so quickly, that most people don't even notice them. 

With herpes, the blisters quickly turn into open sores and the affected area is generally quite small relative to the entire body. You can find out more about herpes symptoms in our Expert Guide to Herpes 1 + 2

That said, I don't have a definitive answer about what’s causing their symptoms...rashes are tough to diagnose without a thorough visual examination. The rash you describe could be anything from poison ivy, to an allergic reaction, to an infection. 

What should your brother and his girlfriend do at this point? I would encourage them make an appointment with a dermatologist to examine their rashes. And, although herpes is unlikely based on your description, I would also suggest that they talk to a doctor about STD testing, including herpes, to make sure.

I hope this information is useful to you, and that the root cause of the rashes is soon resolved.

Related Info: 

Lisa Oldson, MD

Dr. Oldson is Medical Director of the Analyte Physicians Group. She is on staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, as well as Clinical Instructor at the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University. Her areas of expertise include STDs (with a particular clinical emphasis on herpes), women's health, preventive medicine, diabetes, obesity and weight management, and mood and anxiety disorders. Dr. Oldson was educated at Rush Medical College and completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, IL.

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