How to Safely Care For Your Skin During and After Monkeypox

Dr. Hsu also notes that the lesions (occasionally it may just be one lesion) sometimes first appear in the mouth, genitals, or face, but then can spread to the hands, feet, and trunk of the body. From beginning to end, the rash can last anywhere from two to four weeks.

How can you tell if your rash is monkeypox? 

It can be scary to wonder if any skin blemish you develop could actually be monkeypox. There has been some shared confusion, especially on social media, about the difference between monkeypox lesions and other skin outbreaks such as hives, bug bites, pimples, or other rashes. That said, there are actually a couple things that distinguish a monkeypox lesion from the rest.

One defining factor is the accompanying symptoms that typically flare up within one to four days of the rash. “Unlike bug bites, hives, or pimples, monkeypox eruption is typically preceded by non-specific prodromes such as fever, chills, headache, fatigue, sore throat, myalgia, and swollen lymph nodes,” Dr. Hsu explains. 

The other is the change that the monkeypox lesions go through from start to finish: “Bug bites, hives, and pimples don’t go through multiple stages of development like the smallpox lesions,” says Morgana Colombo, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Reston, Virginia. (To learn more about distinguishing features of monkeypox lesions, check here.) But remember: Only a doctor can confirm a monkeypox diagnosis. 

When should you see a doctor?

If you have experienced flu-like symptoms and then notice lesions like the ones we described above a few days later, Dr. Hsu recommends seeking medical attention to receive a diagnosis. For those who aren’t experiencing symptoms, if you have been in contact with someone who had monkeypox, the CDC recommends you call your doctor to find out what you should do next.

“If you were exposed to monkeypox, you will need to monitor yourself for symptoms for 21 days,” Dr. Gopalan says. “You should then call your doctor or nurse if you notice any symptoms such as fever, swollen lymph nodes, or any rash or sores.”

How do you take care of a monkeypox rash?

When a potential outbreak pops up on the skin, your immediate reaction might be to try and treat it, but Dr. Colombo says it’s important to fight that urge before you’re sure what’s causing it. “You should not attempt to care for the lesions at home without being seen by a physician and getting tested first,” she explains.