Experts Are Terrified at the Prevalence of Skin Blanching

With an alarming mix of skin and parenting tips flooding social media, a new style, termed as “skin blanching,” has emerged. Enthusiasts claim it helps determine the severity of a rash and the necessity for a doctor’s intervention. However, experts are terrified at the prevalence of skin blanching, indicating potential unforeseen health implications.

In one video, the user rolls a cup over a child’s rash and says it could kill the kid. It sounds like a trick that could save your life, and you might wish you had known about it years ago.

But it’s wise to be skeptical of parental advice and health hacks shared on social media. Does this popular at-home test hold up under scrutiny?

Elaine F. Kung, M.D., is a clinical assistant professor at Weill-Cornell Medical College and a dermatologist at Future Bright Dermatology. She says that the short answer is “no.” Kung talked more about skin blanching and why she doesn’t think it’s a good way for parents to figure out what’s wrong.

What Does It Mean for Skin to Bleach?

Kung says that the first step in figuring out why spots are different colors is. It’s important to remember that the color will depend on how dark or light your skin is. On lighter skin, a rash might look red, but on darker skin, it might look off-white, brown, or black.

Kung says that this change in color happens when there is redness in the skin, and the blood vessels in the area get bigger.

What Does This Have to Do With the Skin Turning White?

When the discoloration goes away when pressure is put on the skin, it is said to be “blanchable.” The pressure kept the blood from getting to the area for a short time.

If the color doesn’t go away, the skin isn’t able to be bleached.

Rashes that can’t be washed off happen when broken blood vessels leak blood into the skin.

You can apply pressure with your fingers, but doctors use a glass slide. That’s why the cup is in the Instagram video.

What Does It All Mean?

Is a rash that doesn’t turn white more dangerous than a rash that does? No, not always. Still, Kung knows that the thought of blood getting into the skin can be scary.

Kung says, “There are a lot of non-blanchable patches that are not serious.” A port-wine spot is one kind of birthmark that can’t be removed. But some spots that don’t go away on their own do need medical help. Kung says that some dangerous conditions that can cause rashes that won’t go away are:

  • Kawasaki disease
  • Sepsis autoimmune vasculitis
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
  • Leukemia

Rash that can be wiped off can also be harmless and caused by poor circulation or bug bites. But they can also mean something more important is going on. Kung says that spots that can be wiped off can be a sign of:

  • Lyme disease
  • Drug reactions
  • Staphylococcal

In other words, the type of rash is a sign, not a diagnosis, and rashes that blanch and rashes that don’t can be signs of conditions with different levels of seriousness. When treating a patient, a doctor will also look at other signs, such as fever, muscle pain, cough, diarrhea, and extreme tiredness.

In short, you can ignore this trend.

You can see that there are many different problems, and some of them sound scary. It makes sense that you want information quickly. But Kung says it’s best not to worry, not to use blanching to try to figure out what’s wrong, and to call a doctor.

“I would warn parents against making their own diagnoses based on how-tos on social media,” says Kung. A rash that turns the skin white is not a good way to tell if your child needs to see a doctor.

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