- What Are Rashes?
- Types and Causes
- When to See the Doctor
What are rashes?
Rashes are abnormal changes in skin color or texture. Rashes can sometimes be a sign or symptom of an underlying medical condition. Most often, rashes in children are caused by contact with an irritating substance or with something that causes an allergic reaction called an allergen. Certain genes also make some kids more likely to get rashes than others.
Symptoms of skin rashes in children
A rash, also called dermatitis, is swelling or irritation of the skin. Rashes may be red, blotchy, inflamed, dry, scaly, and/or itchy. Rashes can also consist of lumps, bumpiness, blisters, or pimples. Some rashes develop right away. Others form over several days. Most rashes clear up after/within a few days, but some can be recurring.
Types and causes of skin rashes in children
Many things can cause skin rashes in children. Most are easy to treat and will heal quickly. Common types of skin rashes in kids include:
Hives are red, pink, or flesh-colored swollen bumps that may appear on your child's body when a chemical called histamine is released in response to an allergen. The trigger, or cause, could be a certain food, medicine, or bug bite. Hives can also be produced by pressure, cold, heat, etc.
Also called atopic dermatitis, eczema is common in children. Eczema can cause bumpy, chapped, and dry skin, especially around the elbows and knees. More severe cases of eczema may cause red, scaly, and swollen skin all over your child's body.
Irritant contact dermatitis is caused by skin contact with an irritating substance. This could be certain soaps or detergents, chemicals, solvents, or acidic materials. This rash may be itchy, red, and/or swollen.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis is caused by an allergen. Some examples include hair dye, latex, or nickel. This type of rash may look red, scaly, or crusty where the substance touched your child's skin.
Urushiol, the oil in poison ivy, oak, and sumac, can also cause this kind of rash.
Heat rash occurs when perspiration (sweat) can't escape because the sweat gland pores are blocked. It's very common in young children. Heat rash can appear anywhere. It causes patches of small pink or red bumps or blisters, and it typically occurs under clothing or spots in skin creases and folds.
Swimmer's itch, or cercarial dermatitis, is common in kids that spend time in lakes or oceans. This rash is caused by tiny parasites found in shallow, warm water, typically along the shore. The parasites burrow into the skin and cause tiny reddish, raised spots. Welts and blisters may also appear.
Folliculitis, sometimes called hot tub rash, is an itchy, pimply rash that occurs when bacteria in dirty pools or hot tubs get into the hair follicles. The affected skin becomes infected and inflamed, sometimes forming small blisters. A similar rash can occur if your child spends a lot of time in a wet bathing suit.
Molluscum contagiosum is a viral infection that can cause pearly bumps on your child's arms, back, chest, or legs. These dome-shaped bumps are also known as "water warts." Sometimes there are dimples in the center of the bumps.
Hand, foot, & mouth disease
Hand, Foot, & Mouth Disease (HFMD) is very common in young children. It can easily spread in places like daycare centers, preschools, summer camps, and schools. Caused by the virus enterovirus coxsackie, HFMD usually starts with cold-like symptoms such as fever, sore throat, and runny nose. Soon after, a rash with tiny blisters may appear on any or all the following areas of your child's body:
- Fingers or palms of the hands
- Soles of the feet
When to see the doctor for skin rashes in children
If your child has a rash that does not begin to heal within a few days, you should call the doctor. You might see your child’s pediatrician or a dermatologist, who specializes in treating the skin. Knowing which kind of rash your child has can help the doctor choose the best treatment for it.
Contact your pediatrician immediately if your child has any of the following rashes:
- A butterfly-shaped rash across their nose and cheeks
- A peeling rash on the palms or the soles of the feet
- A rash on their genitals
- A rash on/around their eyes
- A rash that doesn’t get better after a few days or with over-the-counter treatment
- A rash that looks like a bull’s eye (often occurs with Lyme disease after a tick bite)
- A rash that’s extremely red, swollen, blistering, oozing, or crusty
- A rash that’s worse in skin folds and creases
- A rash where the skin is sloughing like snakeskin
- A widespread rash and swollen, tender lymph nodes
- Hives and/or swelling in the mouth or face
You should also call a doctor if your child has any of the following symptoms in addition to a rash:
Treatments for skin rashes in children
Topical treatments for rashes in children include moisturizers and hydrocortisone creams that can help relieve itching and swelling. Oral treatments may include antihistamines, which can help relieve itching and inflammation. Most of these are available over-the-counter. Some rashes, as discussed above, may need a diagnosis by your child's pediatrician or dermatologist to determine the appropriate course of treatment.
If your child has eczema, their doctor may prescribe a moisturizer called an emollient that soothes itching and helps skin to retain moisture.
If your child has a rash caused by an allergen, their doctor might recommend a medical test to determine which allergens are causing the rash. The best way to prevent rashes caused by allergens is to avoid the allergen.
Try to keep your child from scratching their skin rash. If they do, the rash may take longer to heal. They'll also be more likely to develop an infection and/or scarring.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
American Academy of Pediatrics: "12 Common Summertime Skin Rashes in Children."
Intermountain Healthcare: "Does My Child Need Treatment for Their Rash?"
U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Rashes."
Top What Are the Main Causes of Skin Rashes in Kids Related Articles
Are Skin Rashes Contagious?Direct and indirect contact can spread some types of rashes from person to person. Rash treatment depends upon a rash's underlying cause. A rash that sheds large amounts of skin warrants urgent medical attention. Rashes can be either contagious or noncontagious. Noncontagious rashes include seborrheic dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, stasis dermatitis, psoriasis, nummular eczema, drug eruptions, hives, heat rash (miliaria), and diaper rash. Rashes usually considered contagious include molluscum contagiosum (viral), impetigo (bacterial), herpes (herpes simplex, types 1 and 2 viruses), rash caused by Neisseria meningitides (N. meningitides) (bacterial), rash and blisters that accompany shingles (herpes zoster virus), ringworm (fungal) infections (tinea), scabies (itch mite), chickenpox (viral), measles and rubella (viral), erythema infectiosum (viral), pityriasis rosea (viral), cellulitis and erysipelas (bacterial), lymphangitis (bacterial, and folliculitis (bacterial).
Cercarial Dermatitis (Swimmer's Itch) PictureCercarial dermatitis (swimmer's itch) is a skin rash caused by an allergic reaction to an infection with certain microscopic parasites of birds and animals. See a picture of Cercarial Dermatitis: Swimmer's Itch and learn more about the health topic.
Common Child Skin RashesWhat causes skin rashes in children? See which chemicals in your home could be causing your child's skin rash, irritated skin, and eczema. Learn how sunscreens, fabric softener sheets, and pesticides can cause itchy, painful, and red skin.
Contact DermatitisContact dermatitis is a rash that occurs after exposure to an irritant. Symptoms of contact dermatitis include a red, elevated rash at the site of contact with the irritating substance. Contact dermatitis treatment may involve creams, application of cool water compresses, and applying topical steroids.
EczemaEczema refers to skin inflammation. There are many different types of eczema that produce symptoms and signs that range from oozing blisters to crusty plaques of skin. Treatment varies depending upon the type of eczema the person has.
FolliculitisFolliculitis is a skin condition that causes small red bumps to form around the hair follicles. Skin bacteria such as Staphylococcus and Pseudomonas may infect the follicles. Treatment involves over-the-counter bacterial washes, topical antibiotics, and/or topical steroids.
Hand, Foot, and Mouth DiseaseHand, foot, and mouth syndrome is clinical pattern consisting of a rash on the hands and feet, and in the mouth. Hand, foot, and mouth syndrome is caused by various viruses, including several types of Coxsackieviruses. Other symptoms include sore throat, decreased appetite, irritability, and (or) fever.
Heat Rash: Pictures, Symptoms, and TreatmentHeat rash is a skin irritation caused by excessive sweating. It can occur at any age and it appears as a rash that itches or feels prickly, and looks like a red cluster of pimples or small blisters.
Heat rash remedies include OTC creams and sprays. Usually heat rash resolves when the skin is cooled sufficiently. Medical treatment may be necessary if the sweat glands become infected.
Hives (Urticaria)Hives, also called urticaria, is a raised, itchy area of skin that is usually a sign of an allergic reaction. The allergy may be to food or medications, but usually the cause of the allergy (the allergen) is unknown.
Impetigo: Treatment, Symptoms, and ComplicationsImpetigo is a contagious skin infection caused by staph and strep bacteria. There are two types of impetigo: nonbullous and bullous. Symptoms of nonbullous impetigo include small blisters on the nose, face, arms, or legs and possibly swollen glands. Bullous impetigo signs include blisters in various areas, particularly in the buttocks area. Treatment involves gentle cleansing, removing the crusts of popped blisters, and the application of prescription-strength mupirocin antibiotic ointment.
Molluscum ContagiosumMolluscum contagiosum is a skin disease that causes pink painless bumps on the skin. It typically resolves in 6 to 12 months. Cryotherapy, laser therapy, and curettage may also treat the nodules of molluscum contagiosum.
Skin RashThe word "rash" means an outbreak of red bumps on the body. The way people use this term, "a rash" can refer to many different skin conditions. The most common of these are scaly patches of skin and red, itchy bumps or patches all over the place.
Skin Conditions Below the WaistSkin conditions like acne, eczema, psoriasis, and allergies may produce redness and other symptoms. See your dermatologist right away if you develop itchy skin, rashes, pimples, or other skin conditions. Dermatology experts are best if you suspect skin cancer or other serious skin disease.
Viral Skin Rashes: Pictures of Rashes, Blisters, and SoresViral skin rashes in adults and toddlers are due to a variety of different viruses. Itching, inflammation, and other symptoms like blisters and sores are treated with topical creams, over-the-counter pain relievers, steroids, and other treatments. See pictures of these viral skin conditions to identify your rash.