What Causes Keratosis Pilaris In Children & How To Treat It?

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Keratosis pilaris on kids may cause dry and rough patches and tiny bumps on the skin. Although not harmful, these skin lesions may cause itching. The condition can often be seen on the face, neck, legs, thigh, and buttocks.

Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition, and the affected skin may have a chicken skin-like appearance and is often called “chicken skin.” Seek pediatric attention if you suspect keratosis pilaris in your child.

Read on to know the causes, symptoms, and treatment of keratosis pilaris on children.

What Does Keratosis Pilaris Look Like?

In this condition, the skin looks like when you have goosebumps. The tiny bumps may appear whitish red or brownish-black based on the color of your skin. The skin would feel dry and rough like sandpaper or chicken skin.

Causes Of Keratosis Pilaris In Children 

Keratosis pilaris is caused due to the blockage of the skin pores due to the excess production of keratin. The clogged pores block the growth of hair follicles, resulting in small bumps on the skin. Although the exact cause of keratin build-up is unknown, it is believed to be hereditary (1).

Who Is At A Risk Of Developing Keratosis Pilaris?

This condition is found in people of all ages. However, most people get this condition before two years of age or during their teenage years (2). The condition is also known to affect 50 to 80% of adolescence (3).

Sometimes, it is also seen as a secondary condition in children with eczema or atopic dermatitis (4). Children with the following factors could also be at a higher risk of developing keratosis pilaris (3).

  • A family history of the condition
  • Asthma
  • Dry skin
  • Obesity

Symptoms Of Keratosis Pilaris

The symptoms of the condition could differ in different children. Here are some common symptoms of keratosis pilaris.

  • Small, hard bumps on the upper arms, things, buttocks, and sometimes, cheeks
  • Bumps with pale, dry skin scales on top
  • Bumps within the hair from the follicle

As these symptoms may also resemble other skin conditions, consult your healthcare provider for the exact diagnosis.

Diagnosis Of Keratosis Pilaris In Children 

Your child’s doctor would do a physical examination to identify keratosis pilaris. They may also ask about your family and child’s medical history.

In some rare cases, a small sample of the skin may be sent for examination if the physical examination fails to prove the diagnosis.

Complications Of Keratosis Pilaris In Children

Keratosis pilaris is a non-contagious and harmless skin condition that may not cause any severe health issues or complications in children. However, it may cause the skin to become dry and flaky. Also, older children and teenagers may feel self-conscious and embarrassed due to the tiny bumps. Most medical practitioners consider the condition as more of a cosmetic problem than a health condition. 

Treatment For Keratosis Pilaris 

Although there is no permanent treatment for keratosis pilaris, the symptoms can be managed. In most children, keratosis pilaris goes away on its own with age. However, if the symptoms recur often or if the condition affects your child’s self-image, it is best to take your child to your pediatrician.

Your doctor may prescribe creams and lotions containing alpha hydroxy acid, salicylic acid, lactic acid, urea, or tretinoin, which might reduce the bumps. Moisturizing the affected areas regularly by applying moisturizer may also help prevent it (4).

Home Care Treatments For Keratosis Pilaris

 As keratosis pilaris can be a long-term condition, you can use certain home care treatments after consultation with your child’s doctor.

  1. Short and warm baths might help unclog or loosen the pores of the skin. Do not let your children take longer baths, as they may strip the body’s natural oils.
  2. While giving a bath, gently exfoliate your child’s skin using a soft loofah or a slightly rough washcloth to remove the dead skin cells. Avoid over-scrubbing the skin as it might aggravate your child’s condition. Even natural sugar can be a mild exfoliant.
  3. Make it a habit to moisturize your child’s skin often to prevent it from becoming dry.
  4. If your teenager has started waxing or shaving, ask them to take a break from waxing until the symptoms subside, as waxing can cause a flare-up.
  5. Ensure your children do not wear tight clothes as it might cause friction and irritate the skin.
  6. Using a dehumidifier can help keep your child’s skin from drying. Also, instruct your children to drink a sufficient amount of water every day.
  7. Omega-3 fatty acids are said to be skin-friendly. Make sure you include these healthy fats in your child’s diet.

Keratosis pilaris in kids occurs due to keratin build-up in skin pores. The otherwise harmless condition causes pale, scaly, and itchy bumps to appear on the skin. It usually does not require treatment and may fade away with age. However, it may be a cosmetic problem that can cause low self-esteem in children and adolescents. Make sure you explain the condition to your child and help them establish a skin-care routine to keep it under control, especially in cold and dry weather conditions. Check with a dermatologist about suitable topical preparations or home remedies for managing the symptoms.

Key Pointers

  • Dry skin and tiny red or brownish-black bumps on the skin are signs of keratosis pilaris in children.
  • It could be seen as an additional condition in children with eczema.
  • To diagnose keratosis pilaris, a doctor would perform a physical examination and refer to the child’s medical and family history.
  • There is no treatment for keratosis pilaris, but the medications aim to reduce the symptoms.
  • Constant moisturizing, gentle skin exfoliation, and warm water baths may temporarily relieve the symptoms.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Keratosis pilaris; NHS UK
2. Keratosis Pilaris: Who Gets and Causes; American Academy of Dermatology Association
3. Keratosis Pilaris; Cleveland Clinic
4. Keratosis Pilaris (KP); Stanford Children’s Health
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Dr. Tashawna Stokes

(MD)
Dr. TaShawna Stokes is a mom to two beautiful daughters and currently practices in the Atlanta area. She received her undergraduate and medical degrees from Auburn University and The University of South Alabama. She completed her Pediatric Residency at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. After completing a chief year, she has worked in urgent care, inpatient and private practice in... more

Dr Bisny T. Joseph

Dr. Bisny T. Joseph is a Georgian Board-certified physician. She has completed her professional graduate degree as a medical doctor from Tbilisi State Medical University, Georgia. She has 3+ years of experience in various sectors of medical affairs as a physician, medical reviewer, medical writer, health coach, and Q&A expert. Her interest in digital medical education and patient education made... more