Skin Rashes in Children
Many things can cause a rash in babies and children, and they're often nothing to worry about.
Immediate action required: Go to A&E if your child has a rash and they:
- have a stiff neck
- are bothered by light
- seem confused
- are shaking uncontrollably
- have a fever you can't control
- have unusually cold hands and feet
- have a rash that doesn't fade when you press a glass against it
These can be signs of meningitis.
Review pictures of common childhood skin rashes to help you become familiar with common conditions that might be causing your child's rash.
Eczema is usually diagnosed based on the appearance of the itchy rash in typical areas, including the forehead, cheeks, arms and legs in infants, and the creases or insides of the elbows, knees, and ankles in older children
For hard-to-control eczema, parents might try using an antihistamine to control itching, wet dressings or wet-to-dry dressings, and even antibiotics if your child has signs of a secondary skin infection.
The classic rash of chickenpox infections includes red papules (bumps), vesicles (the spots that look like little blisters), which then become crusted scabs.
Chickenpox typically starts on a child's trunk and then spreads to the rest of their body, including their arms, legs, and head.
Other symptoms of chickenpox typically include a prodrome of fever, malaise, headache, lack of appetite, and mild abdominal pain for 1 to 2 days.
It is very itchy and very contagious but can be prevented with a chickenpox vaccine.
The 'slapped cheeks' rash of Fifth Disease is a classic pediatric sign.
Although many parents dismiss the red cheeks that kids with Fifth Disease get and think it is simple flushing or is caused by sun or wind, when it is followed by the even more classical pattern of getting a pink or red lacelike rash on their arms, the diagnosis is usually easy to make.
The typical ringworm rash on the body looks like a red circular lesion with a scaly border and these areas may be itchy.
An over-the-counter antifungal cream or ointment is the usual treatment for ringworm, except for tinea capitis, which is much more difficult to treat and often requires several months of an oral medication (like Griseofulvin).
Note the small flesh-colored bumps of Molluscum Contagiosum, which can cause irritation and redness in the surrounding skin.
Molluscum contagiosum, although often flesh-colored, can also be pink. They are typically small, dome-shaped, and can have a small indentation in their center.
Spread by a virus, some children can get multiple clusters of molluscum on their body, while others just have a few that go away without treatment in a few months or years.
Yeast infections can commonly complicate other diaper rashes.
You should suspect that a diaper rash might be caused by yeast (Candida) when your baby's regular diaper rash just isn't getting better with your usual diaper rash ointments and creams.8
Another good sign of a yeast diaper rash is when a diaper rash becomes bright red, and is surrounded with red bumps (satellite lesions).
Treatments for yeast diaper rashes typically include the use of topical antifungal skin creams, such as Nystatin or Vusion.
Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease (Coxsackie)
Despite its scary name, this is a common childhood illness. It starts with a fever, followed by painful mouth sores and a non-itchy rash. The rash blisters on hands, feet, and sometimes buttocks and legs. It spreads through coughing, sneezing, and used diapers. So wash hands often. Coxsackie isn’t serious and usually goes away on its own in about a week.
Many things can trigger these itchy or burning welts. Medicines such as aspirin (which kids should never take) and penicillin can set off hives. Food triggers include eggs, nuts, shellfish, and food additives. Heat or cold and strep throat can also cause hives. Welts can show up anywhere on the body and last minutes or days. Sometimes an antihistamine can help. Hives can be a sign of serious problems, especially when they come with breathing troubles or swelling in the face. In those cases or if hives don't go away, see your doctor.
Scarlet fever is strep throat with a rash. Symptoms include sore throat, fever, headache, belly pain, and swollen neck glands. After 1-2 days, a red rash with a sandpaper texture shows up. After 7-14 days, the rash rubs off. Scarlet fever is very contagious, so wash hands often to keep it from spreading. Call your child's doctor if you think your child has it. He'll probably be treated with with antibiotics.
Roseola (Sixth Disease)
Roseola, a mild illness, gets its nickname from a list of six common childhood rashes. Young kids 6 months to 2 years are most likely to get it. It's rare after age 4. It starts with a cold, followed by a few days of high fever (which can trigger seizures). Then the fevers end suddenly. They're followed by a rash of small, pink, flat, or slightly raised bumps. It shows up first on the chest and back, then hands and feet.
Heat Rash ('Prickly Heat')
Blame blocked sweat ducts. Heat rash looks like small red or pink pimples. You usually see it on the head, neck, and shoulders of babies. The rash often comes when well-meaning parents dress a baby too warmly. But it can happen to any child in very hot weather. Dress your baby in only one more layer than you're wearing. It's OK if his feet and hands feel cool to the touch
Some kids' skin reacts after touching foods, soaps, or plants like poison ivy, sumac, or oak. The rash usually starts within 48 hours after skin contact. Minor cases may cause mild redness or a rash of small red bumps. In severe cases you may see swelling, redness, and larger blisters. This rash usually goes away in a week or two but can be treated with an anti-inflammatory cream like hydrocortisone.
Pityriasis rosea is often confused with ringworm because it typically begins with a large scaly herald patch that actually does look like ringworm.
Although people don't always notice it, the herald patch of pityriasis rosea is typically found at the start of this skin rash.
The herald patch is then followed by the appearance of multiple smaller oval pink patches on the child's trunk, arms, and legs. These can be mildly itchy and can linger for several weeks or months, but the child will otherwise have no other symptoms.
Although alarming for some parents because of the extent of the rash, it is important to keep in mind that pityriasis rosea is thought to be harmless.
It is not known what causes pityriasis rosea, but it may be caused by a virus or a reaction to a previous viral infection. No treatment is usually required, except perhaps to control the itching if it becomes bothersome.
Lip Licker's Dermatitis
During the winter, when many kids have dry skin, they often also get red irritated skin around their mouths.
n addition to those children with eczema, whose dry skin gets red and itchy, some kids simply get dry arms, legs, or hands from time to time.
Many also get a dry area around their mouth from time to time, especially during the winter.
As the skin around the mouth gets irritated, many children will begin to lick at it, which makes it even redder and irritated. This leads to the classic lip licker's dermatitis that many parents and pediatricians see in the winter.
Fortunately, this type of rash usually responds very well to moisturizers, such as Vaseline, Aquaphor Healing Ointment, and Eucerin Original Moisturizing Cream, etc. The trick is that you have to put the moisturizer around your child's lips very frequently, to help break the cycle of irritation and lip licking.
It is also important to note that even though the lip licker's dermatitis is found around a child's mouth, this rash is usually very different than the perioral dermatitis rash that is usually seen in young women and is rarer in children.