What does a herald patch mean and what should I do about it?

Symptom Database

A herald patch is a term used to describe a large, scaly, and often circular or oval-shaped patch of skin that appears on the body. It is typically the first sign of a skin condition known as pityriasis rosea. In this article, we will explore what a herald patch means, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.

What is a Herald Patch?

A herald patch, also known as a mother patch, is a distinctive skin lesion that is characterized by its size, shape, and appearance. It usually starts as a single patch, which is larger than the subsequent patches that may develop. The patch is often round or oval-shaped and has a well-defined border. It can range in size from a few centimeters to several inches in diameter.

Herald Patch Causes

The exact cause of a herald patch is unknown, but it is believed to be associated with a viral infection, particularly the human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) or human herpesvirus 7 (HHV-7). These viruses are common and can cause various symptoms, including skin rashes.

Herald Patch Symptoms

The most common symptom of a herald patch is the appearance of a single, scaly, and pink or red-colored patch on the skin. The patch is usually located on the trunk, but it can also occur on the arms, legs, or neck. It may be itchy or tender to the touch. In some cases, additional smaller patches may develop around the herald patch in a pattern that resembles a Christmas tree.

Herald Patch Diagnosis

A dermatologist can usually diagnose a herald patch by examining the affected area of the skin. The distinctive appearance of the patch, along with the presence of smaller patches in a Christmas tree pattern, is often enough to make a diagnosis. In some cases, a skin biopsy may be performed to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other skin conditions.

Herald Patch Pictures

For a visual representation of a herald patch, you can refer to the following pictures:

  • Herald Patch Picture 1
  • Herald Patch Picture 2
  • Herald Patch Picture 3

Herald Patch Remedies

While there is no specific cure for a herald patch, there are several remedies that can help alleviate the symptoms and promote healing. Here are some effective remedies:

  • Keep the affected area clean and dry.
  • Avoid scratching or picking at the patch to prevent infection.
  • Apply moisturizers or emollients to soothe dry and itchy skin.
  • Use over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams to reduce inflammation and itching.
  • Take lukewarm baths with colloidal oatmeal or baking soda to relieve itching.
  • Avoid hot showers or baths, as they can worsen the symptoms.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing made of breathable fabrics to prevent irritation.
  • Avoid excessive sun exposure, as it can worsen the rash.
  • Take antihistamines to reduce itching and promote better sleep.

Herald Patch Treatment

In most cases, a herald patch will resolve on its own within 6-8 weeks without any treatment. However, if the symptoms are severe or persistent, a dermatologist may recommend the following treatment options:

  • Topical corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and itching.
  • Oral antiviral medications to target the underlying viral infection.
  • Phototherapy, which involves exposing the skin to ultraviolet light, to promote healing.

It is important to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.


A herald patch is a distinctive skin lesion that is often the first sign of pityriasis rosea. While it can be concerning, especially due to its size and appearance, it is generally a harmless condition that resolves on its own. However, if the symptoms are severe or persistent, it is advisable to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and treatment. By following the remedies and treatment options mentioned in this article, you can effectively manage the symptoms and promote healing.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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