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Polka-Dot Disease

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That's malignalitaloptereosis for you.

A fictional disease that's characterised by having spots somewhere on the body. Commonly, the spots are all over the body but sometimes they might only appear on the face.

Somewhat Truth in Television: there's more than a handful of conditions and diseases in Real Life that make you appear spotty, such as chicken pox and measles, which are the basis of many of these diseases, and some children in both fiction and real life fake these diseases by painting spots on, but you can easily tell if someone is faking because these real diseases' spots look more like a skin rash than actual polka-dots.

Symptoms of the disease itself besides the spots may vary. Sometimes, the character gets lethargic and/or has other symptoms like sneezing and coughing as well as the spots, where in other times, the character has no other symptoms besides the spots, which may be inconveniently itchy but relatively harmless. Sometimes, the spots themselves appear all at once (often the character wakes up covered in spots) but other times the spots appear gradually and are brought to light by another character pointing them out. The spots are commonly red or pink, though comedies might have the spots appear in different colours or even be multicoloured. Regardless, these diseases are often infectious.

Cures also vary—sometimes, the cure is just plain old rest, regardless of whether or not the afflicted character is tired (which, understandably, is a bit annoying for them if they aren't), while other times, there might be a whole plot to Find the Cure!, which is something more exciting. Often, upon being cured, the spots either vanish all at once, or, especially in animation, they fall off or "pop" off one by one. Other times, the cure is simply getting rid of the spots.

Compare Sickness Equals Redness, which also makes it easy to tell that a character is sick.


    open/close all folders 

  • Skittles: In "Contract the Rainbow", the "Skittles Pox" makes people grow skittles on their bodies. Picking a skittle of a patient and eating is a surefire way to catch the disease.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Mary Poppins: Discussed. when Mary equates her uncle Albert's levitation upon laughing to an illness and says it's contagious, Jane Banks wonders if she and her brother Michael will get spots. Mary replies that it's highly unlikely.
  • The Little Rascals: in the 1925 silent short film Circus Fever Gene and Farina are being covered entirely with white spots on their body.

  • Isaac Asimov and Janet Asimov's Norby and the Court Jester: The people of Izz sometimes get ickyspot, which includes dots on the skin. Rinda is fortunately just getting over her illness when the story begins. The final chapter has Norby reveal that the disease is already known on Earth, as chickenpox.
  • Dirty Bertie: In the short story "Worms!", Bertie is invited to Angela's birthday party, which he doesn't want to go to because he is the only boy invited, Angela calls him her boyfriend when he hates affection, he doesn't like Angela very much and it's a pink-themed party and he hates pink (with the exception of earthworms). He makes a list of excuses and one of them (which he ends up scrapping, opting for Faking Amnesia instead) is that he has a rare disease called partyitis that brings him out in spots.
  • Invoked in an early draft of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, in which one of Willy Wonka's products was Spotty Powder, a candy that looks and tastes like ordinary sugar, but makes your face break out in spots when you eat it, so you can fake being sick and stay home. Miranda Mary Piker, a notorious Teacher's Pet, would have objected to the production of the stuff and got herself taken out of the tour by trying to smash the machine.
  • The Harry Potter books have made offhand references to a wizarding disease known as, "dragon pox," which causes pockmarks as well as giving a greenish hue to the sufferer's skin.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In a the Out Of This World Sick Episode, Evie develops blue spots as a symptom of an alien disease.
  • In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Favorite Son", Harry Kim develops spots as a symptom of his DNA changing to be like some aliens he met. He remembers getting a disease as a child with similar spots as a symptom called "the Mendakan pox".
  • In the Raven's Home episode "The Baxtercism of Levi Grayson", Nia gets the chicken pox on Halloween.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Happens to the title character of Allegra's Window in the episode "Lots of Turkey Pox", in which she gets the Turkey Pox, which forces her to miss the special project at daycare.
  • In one episode of Dumbo's Circus, Lilli comes down with a spotty sickness (most likely measles, since she also has cold-like symptoms) just when the circus is scheduled to perform in her hometown.
  • Happens to Gobo, Wembley, and Boober Fraggle in an episode of Fraggle Rock, in which all three are infected with a Fraggle disease known as Pebble Pox.
  • In an episode of Sesame Street, Big Bird gets the "Birdy Pox": a one-day disease that most big, yellow birds his age get that's characterised by itchy, green dots appearing all over his body, even in his beak.

  • Latibær: In Glanni Glæpur Í Latabæ, Glanni poisons all the fruit and vegetables in the town, leading to the citizens getting sick with colorful spots visible on their faces after eating them. The vegetables themselves even have spots too!

    Video Games 
  • The British online game Vet Set Go has the pets break out in red spots (in addition to appearing pale and having zigzags as a mouth) when their health meters are low.
  • Characters in The Sims games can occasionally get diseases like this.

    Web Original 
  • Neopets has the diseases Hoochie Coochies (the pet gets blue and green spots), Neezles (the pet has red spots), and Neopox (very itchy red blotches, contagious).

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of Darkwing Duck entitled "Getting Antsy", Darkwing gets shrunk down to a microscopic size and the villain starts having sneezing fits, then his skin turns green with orange spots and he gets pink stripes on his tongue. When Darkwing goes back to regular size, he announces that he befriended a germ, who infected the villain. Unfortunately, Darkwing and his friends also get the illness.
  • In the Harry and His Bucket Full of Dinosaurs episode "Achoo", Harry has a cold and when other dinosaurs catch the virus, they each get a different disease. Taury's is Itchy-Spot-Itis, which manifests itself as itchy, purple spots all over the body that can fall off. Chicken soup cures it.
  • Higglytown Heroes: The episode "Eubie's Pink Dots" has Eubie and the gang suddenly break out in pink spots after running into the bushes to retrieve his ball. The nurse reveals the kids were exposed to a poisonous plant in the bushes called "Higgly Ivy", which caused them to break out.
  • In "Pop-Up!" from JoJo's Circus, Skeebo Seltzer gets the polka dot spots and is upset when he has to stay home from school from two weeks and they even start appear on his feet. JoJo and her pet lion Goliath have already had them, so they come over to his place to make him feel better and entertain him with a jack-in-the-box.
  • Subverted in the Lalaloopsy episode "Spot-itis": everyone except Spot gets multicoloured spots on their faces and Rosie thinks it's a disease which she names "spot-itis". However, it turns out that they just had paint on them.
  • In the Little Princess episode "I Don't Want to Kiss Great Aunty", Princess paints green dots on her face so that they'll think she has "Warble-Dots" and can't kiss her great-aunt. However, she soon gives up when she's told the cure tastes like sweaty socks.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Zigzagged and ultimately averted in "Bridle Gossip": After going into the Everfree Forest, Twilight's horn and Pinkie Pie's tongue both have blue spots in addition to not working right (and the rest of the Mane Six have something else wrong with them). Twilight thinks it could be an illness, but also muses that it could be an allergy, while the rest of the ponies believe it to be a curse. It turns out to be neither: instead, it's a result of a plant called Poison Joke, which causes cruelly humorous afflictions in people who come in contact with it.
    • Subverted in "Hurricane Fluttershy". Rainbow Dash comes in and sees Fluttershy covered in red spots and claiming that she has "Pony Pox". However, Rainbow Dash washes the spots off Fluttershy, proving that she was faking it.
    • In "A Flurry of Emotions", several foals fall sick with the "Horsey Hives" and are covered in red spots.
    • In "A Health of Information", the first obvious symptom of Swamp Fever is orange spots appearing all over the afflicted pony's body. Leaves and branches eventually begin to grow from these same spots, with the eventual result being the victim turning into a tree.
  • In the Pinky Dinky Doo episode "Polka-Dot Pox", Pinky tells a story about herself and her friends getting an illness called polka-dot pox, whose only symptom is multicoloured dots on the face.
  • Private Snafu: In "The Goldbrick", Goldie paints Snafu's face with 'measles paint' to cover him in spots so her can feign illness and get out of drill.
  • In an episode of Rolie Polie Olie, Olie gets a disease (despite being a robot) that means he's covered in multicoloured spots, known as the "Polie Pox". Zowie, his little sister, wants to get it as she thinks it's cool having them, and eventually, she does.
  • Tom and Jerry: In "Polka-Dot Puss," Jerry paints red dots on Tom's face, making him think he has the measles.
  • Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines: In "Barnstormers," Zilly is pursued by a smitten farm Fraulein. He uses a pen with red ink to put dots all over his face to make the Fraulein think he has the measles.
  • In an episode of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Christopher Robin wants to get out of going to a party, so Tigger paints spots on him. Christopher Robin's mother says that he still has to go because, "watercolor spots aren't contagious."

    Real Life 
  • Perhaps the most frightening (and equally dangerous) example of a disease with symptoms similar to this trope is bacterial meningitis. One of this illness's symptoms is that hundreds of dark red blotches appear all over the body. This is a warning sign that the bacteria have become systemic, and that septicaemia may be about to set in...
  • Another example is Henoch-Schoenlein purpura.


Video Example(s):


Polka-Dot Puss

After being tricked into thinking he's sick, Tom gets back at Jerry until discovering that Jerry himself actually got sick and develops polka-dots all over his body, which causes Tom to freak out and get the disease himself, making them both sick.

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Example of:

Main / PolkaDotDisease

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