Rashes are so common in childhood that no child can escape from them. They are often a symptom of a viral or bacterial disease.
While some rashes may look like spots and bumps, some develop into blisters and then scab over. Although most rashes clear up on their own, some form scars and marks on the skin.
Rashes caused by a virus
Chickenpox is a highly contagious viral disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus.
- The main signs of chickenpox are rashes, headache, fever, and loss of appetite.
- The rashes are itchy and form blisters filled with fluid. They then blister and scab over.
- They mostly appear on the ears, face, arms, chest, belly, and the legs.
Treatment (1): Although there is no specific treatment for chickenpox, you can follow some tips to relieve the symptoms.
Cooling gels and calamine lotions can help ease the itching, while over-the-counter paracetamols can relieve the fever.
Make your child drink plenty of fluids to keep the body hydrated.
Prevention: You can prevent chickenpox by giving the varicella virus vaccine to your child.
Measles is an infectious viral respiratory disease.
- It causes rashes all over the body and appears with cold-like symptoms.
- The first symptoms of measles are nasal congestion, red eyes, fever, cough, red ulcers with white spots inside the cheeks.
- On the third day or later, the rashes break out along with a high fever (104 degrees F).
- They usually appear on the forehead and then spread to the other parts of the body such as the face, neck, torso, arms, and legs.
Treatment (2): No medicines are given for measles, and the symptoms typically go away in around two weeks.
Your child’s doctor may prescribe acetaminophen for relieving the fever and aches, give vitamin A supplements, ask to drink plenty of fluids, and suggest a humidifier for a sore throat and cough.
Prevention: You can prevent measles by giving the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine to your child.
3. Rubella or German measles
Rubella is a contagious viral disease in children. It is also known as three-day measles and German measles.
- Rubella and measles share the same characteristic rash, but they are different.
- Bright red or pink rashes appear on the face and then spread to the other parts of the body. They remain for about four to five days.
- Your kid may also have swollen lymph nodes, red eyes, stuffy nose, fever and a sore throat.
Treatment (3): Treatment cannot prevent rubella from living its course. So the therapy tries to relieve the symptoms effectively. Doctors advise rest and prescribe acetaminophen to reduce fever and aches.
Prevention: Rubella can be successfully prevented by the MMR vaccine.
4. Slapped cheek disease
Slapped cheek disease or the fifth disease is a viral infection common in children during early summer, winter, and spring.
- The bright red rashes begin on the cheeks and spread to the torso, arms, and legs in a few days.
- They last for nearly a week.
Treatment (4): This condition runs its course, and over-the-counter drugs like Tylenol are commonly used to ease the fever and pain.
Prevention: As this is an airborne virus, maintain proper hygiene like washing hands, and avoid putting fingers in the mouth.
5. Hand, foot, and mouth disease
Hand, foot, and mouth disease (also known as HFMD) is a contagious viral infection usually affecting children younger than five years of age. It mostly occurs during summer and fall.
- It is characterized by sores in the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet.
- It is generally mild and goes away on its own in a few days.
- Besides mild fever, your kid may have painful red sores inside the mouth, affecting the roof of the mouth, gums, and inner walls and red rashes on the palms, soles, and in the buttocks.
- Usually, it runs its course and the affected child recovers without any complications.
Treatment (5): Topical ointments and oral anesthetics can soothe the rashes and blisters. Medicines like acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be given to relieve general discomfort, pain, and headaches.
Prevention: The best means to prevent this illness from spreading is by practicing good hygiene. Have your children wash hands with soap and water thoroughly.
6. Molluscum contagiosum
Molluscum contagiosum is a viral skin infection.
- It causes small, painless raised lesions on the skin.
- They are commonly smooth and in shiny pink or white in color, with a dent in between.
- The rashes mostly appear on the face, torso, thighs, abdomen, and genitals.
- The rashes may last from 6 months to 4 years. In most cases, treatment is not required.
Treatment (6): Normally, the lesions caused by molluscum contagiosum do not require treatment. But in some extreme situations, the doctor may suggest topical creams and ointments.
In very rare cases, the doctor may recommend treatments like topical therapy, laser therapy, and cryotherapy. These treatments cure each lesion separately and may need a couple of sessions to finish.
Prevention: It spreads through skin contact and therefore practicing good hygiene helps. Also, control the spread of rashes by keeping them covered and not scratching them.
Rashes caused by bacteria
Some diseases caused by bacteria also come with skin rashes or lesions. Here are the most common ones.
7. Scarlet fever
Scarlet fever is strep throat (bacterial infection causing a scratchy sore throat) with an accompanying rash. It usually affects children in the age group of 5 to 15 years and is unusual for children under 2 years.
- It is caused by ‘type A’ Streptococcal bacteria that also cause strep throat. The bacteria release a toxin that causes the red itchy rashes.
- Also known as scarlatina, scarlet fever comes with a characteristic red rash, along with high fever and sore throat.
- The most common symptoms are a red rash that appears all over the face, neck, torso, arms, and legs. Sometimes, the rashes leave a white, clear area around the mouth.
- Red streaks or scars appear around the creases like armpits, elbows, knees, groin, and neck. This condition is known as Pastia’s lines.
- The tonsils and the back of the throat may appear red, swollen and marked by several rashes with little white specks of pus.
Treatment (7): It was once a severe and fatal disease in children, but is now treatable with antibiotics. Besides antibiotics, your child’s doctor may also prescribe topical ointments for the rashes or medicines to ease a sore throat.
Prevention: The bacteria are contagious and spread quickly. If a kid contracts the disease, keep him or her at home, as their cough and sneeze can infect others.
If somebody in the family has the infection, prevent your kid from having skin contact with the patient. Washing hands thoroughly, and keep utensils, cups, and belongings of an infected person separate.
Impetigo is a bacterial infection common in children but is not a serious one. It mostly occurs during hot and humid weather and is highly contagious.
- The typical signs of impetigo include bright red spots appearing in clusters around the nose and the lips.
- The sores form fluid-filled blisters that may ooze and then crust over.
- The sores are itchy and sometimes painful. After crusting, may leave red marks on the skin.
Treatment (8): Doctors usually give antibiotics to heal the rashes. With the treatment, your child will recover in a week’s time.
You may clean your kid’s impetigo sores with clean, warm water and soap, and use topical antibiotic ointments to relieve the sores. Topical antibiotics can cure impetigo in seven days.
Prevention: Maintaining good hygiene is the best way to prevent impetigo. Give baths regularly, wash their hands, cover any skin wounds, cut the nails, and disinfect the rooms and objects.
Sometimes rashes may be caused by heat, allergic reaction, or other infections.
Eczema is another name for dermatitis and is an inflammatory skin condition.
- The exact cause of eczema is not known, but sometimes the combined factors of genes and environmental factors can trigger eczema.
- The skin becomes dry, cracked, red and itchy.
- The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis, which commonly affects children.
- The rashes usually appear behind the creases of the knees and elbows. They may also appear on the wrists, ankles, legs, and neck.
- The rashes are red, bumpy and very itchy. But they are non-contagious.
- Eczema usually goes away as the kid gets older, but some may continue to have it even in their adulthood.
Treatment (9): There is no cure for eczema, and the treatment aims to recover the skin and prevent any flare-ups by using topical medications. Doctors commonly prescribe biologic drugs and immunosuppressants.
Prevention: Recognize and avoid aggravating factors like some foods, dust mites or pollen. Hydrate your kid’s skin with a moisturizer and prevent him/her from scratching. Keep a humidifier in the room, especially during the winters when the weather is dry.
10. Prickly heat rash
Prickly heat rash is itchy with red spots and feels like a sting on the skin. It is also known as miliaria.
- It happens when the sweat ducts of the epidermis or the outer layer of the skin become clogged.
- Heat rash appears mostly on the face, neck, armpits, abdomen, chest, back, and legs.
Treatment (10): It is not a serious condition and does not require any specific treatment. Apply heat rash lotions like calamine lotions, or over-the-counter topical steroids such as hydrocortisone cream.
Prevention: Keep your child in a cool, dry atmosphere and prevent overdressing in a hot climate.
11. Erythema multiforme
This is not a disease but a reaction to some infection, which makes the body’s immune system destroy its skin cells. It can happen as a reaction to medicine too.
- Erythema multiforme comes with target-shaped, ring-like red sores.
- The rashes begin like pink blotches and then turn red and form rings. They may also form blisters or scabs.
- They may appear on the face, neck, torso, arms, and legs too. And in some severe cases, the rashes appear inside the mouth.
Treatment (11): There is no treatment as the mild infection goes away on its own. However, cold compresses and paracetamol can be used to relieve the symptoms like sore rashes and fever.
Prevention: Erythema is not contagious. Environmental factors (pollen, smoke) and foods like dairy can trigger the rashes. Know your kid’s triggers and prevent exposure to them.
Psoriasis is a common skin infection that is long-lasting. However, it can get better or worse almost randomly. It may suddenly disappear and reappear.
- This condition causes skin cells to accumulate on the skin’s surface. They form thick whitish scales and raised bumps (known as plaques).
- The plaques are red and itchy. These bumpy rashes appear all over the body – scalp, torso, legs, elbows, and knees.
- Psoriasis is genetic. Research says that children of parents, who have psoriasis, have chances of getting it.
- Psoriasis is non-contagious. But its severity varies. For some, it will be a mild distraction, while for some others it can adversely affect their quality of life. Plaques may cover large areas on the face or body, and the children may feel uncomfortable.
- Common symptoms are dry and cracked skin that also bleeds, and itching and burning sensation around the flaky and affected areas.
Treatment (12): There is no cure for psoriasis, but medications like topical ointments and creams can be used for the rashes. Sometimes, doctors can come up with combined therapies to effectively relieve the symptoms.
Prevention: There is no way to prevent psoriasis. You can avoid flare-ups by using moisturizing lotions to prevent the skin from getting dry, topical treatment shampoos for the scalp, a humidifier to keep the atmosphere moist, and avoid freezing, dry weather.
Scabies is a skin infestation done by mites that burrow on the skin.
- They burrow and make small red bumpy rashes and blisters. The bumps are often filled with pus.
- The rashes are itchy and the skin may become thick and scaly.
- The areas most affected by scabies are the hands, in between the fingers and toes, the inner sides of the wrist, underarm folds, elbows, and buttocks.
Treatment (13): Scabies infection needs medical treatment. Take your child for a diagnosis if such symptoms show up. Doctors usually give medicated ointments or creams to kill the mite. They may also prescribe antihistamines for relieving itching. After the treatment begins, the itching stops in about two days time.
Prevention: It is highly contagious and can spread by contact. Therefore, if one person in the house is affected, the whole family should be treated.
Hives are raised pink spots or bumps affecting the skin. It is also known as urticaria.
- Hives can happen as an allergic reaction to a drug, for example, a penicillin rash, or to foods, which usually resolve within a few hours.
- The most common reason for hives is a viral infection with symptoms like a cough, fever, and diarrhea. Sometimes, it can also happen due to bacterial infections like UTI.
- When hives last for around six weeks, it is known as acute hives. When it continues for more than six weeks, it is chronic hives.
- The rashes are very itchy and look like small mosquito bites.
- Sometimes, hives may appear all over after a bee sting, or as an anaphylactic reaction, which involves the sudden onset of widespread hives as a severe reaction to some allergic food within two hours of consumption. But in more than 30% of cases, the cause is not identified.
- The rashes usually remain for three to four days. Children do not usually get hives more than once.
Treatment (14): The treatment focuses on relieving the symptoms. Doctors usually recommend topical medicines like corticosteroid tablets and antihistamines. Give your kid a cold shower to ease the itching, rub ice cubes on itchy spots, and give Benadryl four times a day for hives that itch.
Prevention: Washing the hands and body with water and soap can help avoid hives.
Rashes in children happen due to many reasons. Although they are mostly harmless, you should know the origin of the outbreaks to prevent any complications. Therefore, get your kid diagnosed if rashes appear and persist for more than a day. Usually, children recover by themselves with some support from soothing ointments.
Did your kids get rashes? How did you take care of them? Share your experience with us in the comments section below.