Extensive skin reaction after vaccination

The cause of a skin reaction of a vaccinated person is difficult to determine, especially if it is widespread and appears shortly after vaccination. The skin reaction may indicate an immediate allergic reaction if 
  • it spreads to a wide area: the body, head and neck, and limbs, or 
  • it involves respiratory symptoms.

Treating an extensive skin reaction

Instruct the patient to treat the condition according to the symptoms by applying cortisone skin creams as necessary. If the rash is very itchy, antihistamine can be used.

Follow-up vaccinations

A generalised rash rarely prevents follow-up vaccinations.

  • Consult an allergy specialist if the vaccine recipient develops extensive skin redness, swelling or haves within two days of the vaccination and no other obvious reason for the symptoms can be found. 
  • Pay attention to safe vaccination. If necessary, perform the next vaccination in the presence of a physician and extend the follow-up time to two hours.
  • If it seems that a basic vaccine series will not be completed, consult a vaccine safety specialist at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.

Differential diagnostic situations

Other reasons may underlie a generalised skin reaction, including

  • food or other allergens
  • atopic skin
  • fever and various infections
  • cold or hot temperatures
  • abrasion and pressure on the skin.

Take into account the share of other causes when assessing the recurrence of a skin reaction in connection with further vaccinations. 

For example, atopic dermatitis may become temporarily inflamed after vaccination even in a person not allergic to the vaccine ingredients.

An IgE-mediated vaccine allergy is unlikely and follow-up vaccinations may be administered normally if the skin reaction

  • occurs after a delay, more than two days after vaccination
  • is detected after the first dose of the vaccine and the vaccinated person has not previously been exposed to the ingredients of the vaccine.