You Should Call Your Doctor Immediately If You Have These (Seemingly Minor) Symptoms


They may seem like no big deal, but experts say that when they happen together, you need to take these two symptoms very seriously. (Photo: Getty Images)

It may seem like no big deal if you develop a fever and a rash — but experts say they could be a sign you may have contracted one of a number of potentially life-threatening illnesses.

The American College of Osteopathic Emergency Physicians announced this week that adults who experience a rash and fever of 100.5 or above should visit the ER.

Here’s why: The fever-rash combination could be a sign that you’ve developed one of several potentially life-threatening illnesses. They specifically cited the following:

  • Toxic Shock Syndrome: A potentially fatal illness caused by a bacteria that releases a toxin called toxic shock syndrome toxin-1. Both men and women can develop TSS, but 50 percent of cases are tied to tampon use. (Approximately one in every 100,000 women who use tampons contract TSS every year, according to research from the University of Minnesota that was published in the journal PLoS One.)

  • Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis: A potentially deadly skin condition typically caused by a negative reaction to medication. It can result in sepsis (a life-threatening complication from an infection) and even death.

  • Staph Scalded Skin Syndrome: A serious infection caused by strains of the Staphylococcus bacteria, which produce a poison that causes skin damage.

  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: An illness caused by a tick infected with the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it affects approximately 2,000 people in the U.S. each year. It’s rarely fatal, but can result in limb amputation for those infected.

  • Meningococcemia: An infection caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitides, which often lives in a person’s upper respiratory tract. It occurs more often in winter and early spring, per the National Institutes of Health, and can be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. It can result in kidney failure and shock if it’s not caught early enough.

  • Purpura Fulminans: An acute, often fatal blood disorder that also manifests as blood spots, bruising, and skin discoloration. It can be caused by severe infections.

  • Strep Toxic Shock Syndrome: A rare but serious medical condition caused by the group A Streptococcus bacterium. The condition happens when this bacteria in found in parts of your body where it’s not supposed to be (your blood, muscles, or lungs, for example).

While the list is alarming, Pritish Tosh, MD, an infectious diseases physician at the Mayo Clinic, tells Yahoo Health that there are even more diseases and conditions that can cause a rash and fever. “This is a short list of some severe things,” he says. “The number of things that can cause fever and rash are quite large.”

Among them: Severe allergic reactions and measles (if a person is not vaccinated).

“If you have a rash illness that’s severe enough to give you a fever, you should probably be seen promptly,” he says. The reason: These diseases can be debilitating and even deadly if they’re not treated quickly.

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But Russ Kino, MD, medical director of the Weingart Foundation Emergency Department at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif., tells Yahoo Health that the average, healthy person shouldn’t be overly worried about contracting these.

“There are many rashes and fevers,” he says. “The challenge is trying to sort out the dangerous from non-dangerous.”

However, he says people who are immunosuppressed, have diabetes, or are elderly should be “alarmed” if they develop these symptoms and should head to the ER immediately.

Regardless of your pre-existing health or age, Kino says it’s important to at least contact your primary care physician if you notice you have a fever and rash to talk about the details of your symptoms.

“The type of rash matters,” he explains. “If it looks like blotchy bruising under the skin, that’s concerning, but what may appear to be a small rash in one part of your body may not be as concerning.”

Your doctor may suggest that you come in for a visit or go to the ER for an evaluation.

Bottom line: While a fever and rash may be nothing, it can also be a sign that something is seriously wrong. If you notice you have these symptoms, it’s best to contact your doctor, just in case.

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