Yikes! Your child wakes up covered in little red dots. Is it chicken pox? Heat rash? Impetigo? Is it contagious? To help you correctly identify your child’s rash and whether it needs to be seen by a doctor, we at Westchester Health Pediatrics have put together a list of the most common kids’ skin rashes and what to do about them.
10 most common pediatric rashes
Contrary to what some people think, ringworm has nothing to do with worms. It is brought on by a common fungus that infects the skin and causes a scaly, bumpy red patch to form on the infected area. It is contagious and can be spread by contact or by sharing clothes that have also come in contact with the infected area. Treatment: Apply an antifungal cream to the area for 7-10 days until the infection resolves.
2. Fifth Disease
A very common illness that is usually mild and goes away without treatment, fifth disease is caused by the Parvovirus B19 virus. It typically starts with flu-like symptoms and can be identified by a bright red rash on the cheeks (“slapped cheek appearance”). A lacey rash on the body follows. Since a virus causes fifth disease, antibiotics should not be used for treatment. Parvovirus B19 can be dangerous to a pregnant woman’s fetus, so it is very important to notify your healthcare professional if you are pregnant and have been exposed to it.
Chickenpox used to be very common in young children but today we see it much less frequently due to routine vaccination programs. Caused by the virus varicella, chickenpox generally starts as a fever and then manifests as cold symptoms and a rash. The rash is typically a mix of blisters, spots and crusted scabs, is itchy, and lasts for about a week. Children with an active chickenpox infection are contagious until all of the blisters crust over.
Impetigo can be confused with other skin infections, including cellulitis (a deeper infection) and even ringworm. It is caused by common bacteria found on the skin and needs to be treated with an antibiotic ointment. The rash itself looks red, oozy and blistery, then may develop a yellowish crust. It spreads by contact and scratching makes it worse. Impetigo can occur anywhere on the body but it’s commonly found around the mouth and nose.
Caused by a virus, warts can spread both from person to person and to other parts of the body. Most commonly, warts appear on the hands but they can be found anywhere. Most warts resolve on their own, but there are many over-the-counter medications available that can help speed up the process.
6. Heat Rash (“Prickly Heat”)
Common in young babies, heat rash is caused by blocked sweat glands and results in a red, pimply eruption on the head and neck. To prevent, make sure to dress your infant appropriately (not too hot, not too cold). Generally, heat rash goes away on its own.
7. Contact Dermatitis
Contact dermatitis appears as a collection of small red pimples or bumps on skin that has been exposed to an allergen, such as specific foods, lotions, chemicals or plants, such as poison ivy. The rash starts within 1-2 days of exposure, depending upon the sensitivity, and can last as long as the contact with the allergen continues or until the rash heals, which may take 1-2 weeks. Topical steroids can help lessen the symptoms.
Resulting from an allergic reaction, hives appear as small, red, itchy bumps or welts, which are often painful. Some common hives-producing allergies include nuts, eggs, dairy, shellfish and certain medications, but viruses can also cause hives. Although hives themselves are not dangerous, if your child develops breathing trouble, such as coughing and/or wheezing, it might signal a more serious allergic reaction requiring immediate medical attention. Antihistamines are the standard treatment for hives.
9. Scarlet Fever
A very common illness that begins with a sore throat, fever and other nonspecific complaints, scarlet fever is caused by streptococcal infection. The rash, which starts after the other symptoms, feels like sandpaper and may or may not be itchy. Scarlet fever is very contagious, it is imperative to treat the underlying strep infection with antibiotics.
10. Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is common in children with allergies and asthma. It appears as an itchy, red patch which typically shows up on the cheeks, elbows or around the knees. Treating the rash with lubricating lotions, ointments or creams usually improves the symptoms but sometimes topical steroids are required.
When to call 911
If your child is having difficulty breathing or develops hives, a fever, a fast pulse, confusion or nausea, seek immediate medical attention. These could be signs of a life-threatening allergic reaction.
When to see your child’s pediatrician
Consult your child’s doctor promptly if a rash:
- Lasts longer than a week
- Shows signs of local infection (oozing, redness or swelling of the skin)
- Occurs together with fever, chills, swollen glands or other symptoms of infection (sore throat, cough, headache, nasal congestion, etc.)
- Occurs together with symptoms that suggest an autoimmune disorder, such as recurring fever, malaise, fatigue, unexplained weight loss or joint swelling
If your child is suffering from a painful, itchy rash, please come see us
If your child has a rash that is not going away or is getting worse, or if you want to know more about any aspect of raising healthy kids, please make an appointment with Westchester Health Pediatrics to see one of our pediatricians. Together, we’ll determine the best course of treatment so your child can start feeling better soon.