If You See This Mark on Your Skin, Call 911, Experts Say


As the largest organ in your body, your skin can tell you a lot about your health. But given that a range of rashes look more or less the same to the untrained eye, it may be difficult to distinguish between skin symptoms that are serious and those that are superficial. That’s why doctors are sounding the alarm about one particular skin symptom, which they warn can be a sign of a major medical emergency. When this type of rash appears, they say that time is of the essence before this life-threatening condition progresses past a point of no return. Read on to learn what to look out for.

According to medical experts, having a red line or streak on your skin that grows in length is a serious symptom that may indicate sepsis.

Skin Specialist

The Mayo Clinic adds that while most people can recover from sepsis, the mortality rate becomes 40 percent in the event that it progresses to septic shock.

The rash, known as lymphangitis, is usually caused by a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection.

woman in blue shirt photographed from behind talking to a young doctor with a stethoscope around her neck iStock

The line itself, known as infectious lymphangitis, occurs when bacteria, viruses, or fungus cause inflammation and infection in the lymphatic channels. According to Healthline, “the most common infectious cause of lymphangitis is acute streptococcal infection,” with staph infections also causing their fair share of cases. These may result from existing, internal infections, or can enter the body via an open wound.

Esper, a PHD in biological sciences says that there’s an easy way to track whether redness on your skin or around an open wound is spreading. “Take a pen and mark around the site. Draw a border around the redness,” . “Does the redness go beyond that mark [the next day]? If you’re on antibiotics and the redness goes beyond those markings, we’re on the wrong antibiotics or we need something more powerful.”

However, this “wait and see” approach only applies if the redness is radiating out from a wound evenly, indicating a more general infection. If instead it takes the form of a line or streak as if along a vein, don’t wait to call for medical assistance.

Esper also recommends seeking medical care if, in addition to this sign of infection, any other symptoms of sepsis arise, including mental decline, a fever, or fatigue.

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