Caring for kids' rashes

Rashes are one of the most common reason parents bring their children to the doctor. Pediatrician Jennifer Berger, MD, explains common rashes, home treatments and when to take your child to the doctor.

What is a rash? What does it indicate?

A rash is a change in the skin that alters its appearance.  It can affect the color, texture or appearance of the skin.  Most rashes are harmless and will clear up on their own with time.  

What are some common rashes?

  • Viral exanthema
    These are rashes that are associated with a viral illness such as a cold.  These rashes can be flat or raised and most commonly occur on the trunk and extremities. This rash will resolve on its own and does not require any treatment.
  • Eczema
    Eczema is a rash that often ends up being a chronic condition.  It is more common in children with a family history of allergies or asthma.  The rash is often itchy, red, raised bumps or scaly plaques.  It is recommended that children with eczema avoid very long, hot baths and use unscented moisturizer 2-3 times per day.  Sometimes, topical steroids are also needed.
  • Hives
    Hives are usually raised red bumps sometimes with a pale center that can move around on the body and are very itchy. They can occur all over the body or sometimes just in one area. More than 50 percent of the time, the cause of the hives is unknown.  The most common cause of hives is viral infections, foods, medications or insect bites.

How should you treat a rash at home?

Rashes will often resolve on their own and do not require treatment.  However, you can try an unscented moisturizer such as Aquaphor or Eucerin cream.  If the rash is itchy, antihistamines can help as well as a cool compress.  

At what point should you contact your pediatrician?

If the rash is persistent for more than a week or is associated with fever or oth

er symptoms, it is best to be seen by a pediatrician. There are some rashes to be concerned about, such as petechiae or purpura, which cause purple or red blotches or dots on the skin, so if you have any doubts, always seek advice from your pediatrician.  

Resources

Below are a few resources for parents about rashes from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

 

Dr. Jennifer Berger is a pediatrician with the Memphis Pediatrics.  Dr. Berger completed her residency at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, where she spent a year as chief resident. Dr. Berger is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics and is board certified in Pediatrics. She is the mother of two girls.