Skin reactions to COVID-19 and its vaccines (2024)

Board-certified dermatologist provides the latest information on how COVID and its vaccines affect people’s skin

BOSTON, MA (March 25, 2022) —When the pandemic began, everything about COVID-19 was new and unknown, including the correlation between COVID and the skin. Thanks to a comprehensive COVID-19 dermatology registry, dermatologists now have gathered a great deal of data on skin reactions caused by COVID-19 and its vaccines.

“Early April of 2020, the American Academy of Dermatology and the International League of Dermatologic Societies put together a COVID-19 dermatology registry, which allows dermatologists to better understand the skin reactions that people experience from the COVID-19 virus,” said board-certified dermatologist Esther Ellen Freeman MD, PhD, FAAD, director, global health dermatology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, in Boston. “Through this registry, physicians and health care professionals across the world share information about the cases they’re seeing, which assists us in recognizing the common skin reactions caused by COVID-19 and helps us better diagnose and treat our own patients.”

Dr. Freeman notes that dermatologists have found a variety of different skin reactions that are associated with COVID-19. Some reactions are milder, like COVID toes, and others are more severe. People have a large variability in their immune response to the COVID-19 virus, which causes the skin to react differently for each person.

“Data from large studies in Europe show us that about 10 percent of patients with COVID-19 will have a skin reaction. Of the patients that do have a rash, about 20 percent will develop the rash either as their only sign and symptom of COVID-19 or their first sign and symptom of COVID-19,” says Dr. Freeman. “In fact, you’re more likely to develop a skin reaction from COVID-19 itself than you are to develop a serious skin reaction from the COVID vaccine."

The duration and treatment of the skin reaction depends on the type of reaction the person has; however, Dr. Freeman says most reactions usually resolve within a month. There are patients who have had skin reactions, such as COVID toes or hives, which have lasted six-to-12 months after the infection, but those types of cases tend to be uncommon.

Dr. Freeman notes that while the different variants of COVID-19 are associated with different symptoms, it’s too early to tell if the different variants cause different skin reactions.

“The symptoms COVID patients experience with the Omicron variant are different from the symptoms COVID patients experience with the Delta variant. For example, the loss of taste and smell, which is very common in patients with Delta, appears to be less common in patients with Omicron. Similarly, a sore throat, which was not common with Delta, is now actually being noted much more commonly in Omicron,” says Dr. Freeman. “I do expect that we may see some differences in how people’s skin reacts to different variants in the coming months, but we just don’t have enough data yet to know.”

In addition to skin reactions being caused by COVID-19, some people report having reactions from the COVID-19 vaccine. Similarly, to what dermatologists are seeing in how the immune system responds to the virus after having COVID-19, they’re also seeing that people’s immune systems respond differently to the vaccine, which means there’s a spectrum of different skin reactions that can be caused by the vaccine.

One of the most common reactions that people can experience is a delayed local reaction to the vaccine, also known as “COVID arm.” The reaction typically starts about a week after the injection, and involves a discolored, raised area over the injection site which goes away on its own, is not harmful and should not stop people from getting vaccinated again.

According to Dr. Freeman, less than 50 percent of the people who experience a reaction to their first dose have the same reaction to the second dose. It is rare for people who did not have reactions to the vaccine to develop a reaction to the booster.

“After 10 billion doses of the vaccine given worldwide, there’s a lot of safety data,” says Dr. Freeman. “Vaccines are safe and effective, and we encourage the public to consider getting their vaccines and booster to protect themselves against COVID-19.”

Dermatologists are the experts in the diagnosis and treatment of skin rashes. If you have a skin reaction to COVID-19, a COVID vaccine or booster, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist.

To find a board-certified dermatologist in your area, visit aad.org/findaderm.

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Contact

Angela Panateri, apanateri@aad.org

Media Relations, mediarelations@aad.org

More Information

COVID-19 Dermatology and Vaccines

COVID-19 Resource Center

COVID-19 Dermatology Registry

About the AAD

Headquartered in Rosemont, Ill., the American Academy of Dermatology, founded in 1938, is the largest, most influential, and most representative of all dermatologic associations. With a membership of more than 20,000 physicians worldwide, the AAD is committed to: advancing the diagnosis and medical, surgical and cosmetic treatment of the skin, hair and nails; advocating high standards in clinical practice, education, and research in dermatology; and supporting and enhancing patient care for a lifetime of healthier skin, hair and nails. For more information, contact the AAD at (888) 462-DERM (3376) or aad.org. Follow the AAD on Facebook (American Academy of Dermatology), Twitter (@AADskin), Instagram (@AADskin1), or YouTube (AcademyofDermatology).

Editor’s note: The AAD does not promote or endorse any products or services. This content is intended as editorial content and should not be embedded with any paid, sponsored or advertorial content as it could be perceived as an AAD endorsem*nt.

Skin reactions to COVID-19 and its vaccines (2024)

FAQs

Skin reactions to COVID-19 and its vaccines? ›

One of the most common reactions that people can experience is a delayed local reaction to the vaccine, also known as “COVID arm.” The reaction typically starts about a week after the injection, and involves a discolored, raised area over the injection site which goes away on its own, is not harmful and should not stop ...

Are there skin side effects from COVID shots? ›

If you had a red, itchy, swollen, or painful rash where you got a COVID-19 shot, you should still get another shot at the scheduled date and time. This applies to the updated (2023–2024 formula) COVID-19 vaccine. These rashes can start a few days to more than a week after your shot and are sometimes quite large.

What are the skin conditions after COVID-19? ›

To date, maculopapular rashes, urticarial lesions, and chilblains are the most frequently reported skin manifestations of COVID-19. Various cutaneous clinical patterns related to SARS-CoV-2 viral infections occur at different times throughout the disease course and may predict severity and prognosis.

How long does a COVID rash last? ›

Antihistamines and steroids may help relieve symptoms like inflammation and itching that accompany these rashes. For most people, COVID-19 rashes clear in weeks without serious complications.

What is a common Covid vaccine reaction? ›

Common side effects can include: Pain, swelling, and redness on the arm where the shot was given. Tiredness, headache, muscle pain. Chills.

What are the unusual side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine? ›

The largest vaccine safety study to date has identified two new, but very rare, side effects associated with covid-19 vaccines—transverse myelitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis. The Global Vaccine Data Network cohort study included 99 million vaccinated people from 10 sites across eight countries.

Can a COVID booster cause eczema? ›

However, the National Eczema Society has acknowledged multiple patient reports of worsening eczema after COVID-19 vaccination and published reports documenting eczematous reactions to the vaccine in patients with prior disease.

What does COVID do to your skin? ›

Hives-like rash: Dermatologists are seeing patients with COVID-19 who develop a rash that looks like hives. Symptoms: Some rashes itch. Treatment: Some rashes require medical treatment. Rash on COVID-19 patient's thigh: This rash could also be mistaken for hives.

What are the rare symptoms of Covid-19 skin? ›

Skin changes

They may show up during COVID-19 symptoms or up to a month later. These may be large, flat blotches, or itchy, raised spots or welts called hives. Some people may have small round fluid-filled bubbles across the skin. The rash also may be a lacy darkening of skin.

What are the dermatological manifestations of COVID-19? ›

Summary: The polymorphic nature of COVID-19-associated cutaneous manifestations led our group to propose a classification, which distinguishes the following six main clinical patterns: (i) urticarial rash, (ii) confluent erythematous/maculopapular/morbilliform rash, (iii) papulovesicular exanthem, (iv) chilblain-like ...

What does a viral rash look like? ›

Viral rashes usually have small pink spots. They occur on both sides of the chest, stomach and back. Your child may also have a fever with some diarrhea or cold symptoms. They last 2 or 3 days.

Does a rash mean the end of a virus? ›

Health and wellness

The rash arrives toward the end of infection and lasts a couple days. It's the body's reaction to the virus and doesn't respond to much medication, including steroids. We try to just give the body time to heal itself."

Can COVID cause shingles? ›

The virus that causes COVID doesn't cause shingles directly. But COVID and shingles may be related. COVID illness weakens the immune system, and that can give the zoster virus a chance to wake up and cause shingles.

How do you treat a rash from the COVID vaccine? ›

The treatments for rashes after COVID-19 reactions vary from observation to symptomatic treatment with antihistamine, topical or oral steroids, or antivirals. Urticaria can be managed symptomatically with antihistamines and is not a contraindication for future vaccinations.

What does a vaccine allergic reaction look like? ›

Symptoms of one or more systems: skin symptoms (itching, hives, flushing or facial swelling), breathing problems (shortness of breath, wheezing, cough), symptoms due to low blood pressure (confusion, disorientation, dizziness, lightheadedness, weakness, or fast heart rate), or gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, ...

How long does a vaccine stay in your body? ›

How long do spike proteins last in the body? The Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) estimates that the spike proteins that were generated by COVID-19 vaccines last up to a few weeks, like other proteins made by the body.

Can the COVID vaccine cause hyperpigmentation? ›

To our knowledge this is the first report of presenting onset generalized and persistent skin pigmentation following COVID‐19 vaccination,and clinicians need to be aware of this possible cutaneous adverse effects related to COVID‐19 vaccination.

What are the cutaneous manifestations of COVID-19 and Covid-19 vaccine? ›

The major cutaneous adverse reactions are type I hypersensitivity (urticaria and anaphylaxis) and type IV hypersensitivity (COVID arm and erythema multiform). Autoimmune-mediated reactions including bullous pemphigus, vasculitis, vitiligo, and alopecia areata have also been reported.

How long does the COVID vaccine last in the body? ›

The Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Novavax vaccines protect against many known variants of COVID-19. The Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines offer immunity against COVID-19 for up to six months.

When should I be worried about injection site reaction? ›

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these: Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed. Severe pain at the injection site. Blistering at the injection site.

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