From simple heat rash to eczema, if you’re a parent, you’ve likely seen your fair share of kid skin rashes. Some may be easy to diagnosis, while others leave you searching for answers on the Internet. We talked to Le Bonheur Chief Pediatric Dermatologist Teresa Wright, MD, about some of the most common rashes she sees in children – what they look like and how to treat.
What: Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, is a chronic skin condition characterized by red, itchy rashes. Most children with eczema have very dry, sensitive skin. The rash often first appears in infancy.
Where: Although any area can be affected, the face, elbows, wrists, knees, and ankles are common sites in young children. The rash consists of itchy red bumps and patches.
Causes: Although its cause is not well understood, it likely includes both hereditary and environmental factors.
Treatment: Treatment consists of gentle skin care (including daily cleansing and frequent application of a thick moisturizer), anti-histamines for itching and use of topical anti-inflammatory medications. Atopic dermatitis can improve over time, but it tends to be chronic, meaning that it can be controlled, but not usually cured.
2. Cradle cap
What: Seborrheic dermatitis, also known as cradle cap, is a skin condition characterized by thick waxy scale over the scalp and red scaly patches on the skin. Typically, seborrheic dermatitis appears during the first three months of life and gradually improves during the first year. It is not usually very itchy.
Where: In addition to the scalp, it often causes redness in the body creases, such as the neck, armpits and groin.
Causes: Its cause is not well understood, but it tends to favor areas with high oil gland activity and it may be related to a common skin yeast.
Treatment: Treatment consists of gentle skin care along with topical anti-inflammatory and/or anti-yeast medications.
3. Heat rash
What: Miliaria rubra, also known as heat rash or prickly heat, appears as small red bumps on the skin. Heat rash is very common in young infants.
Where: It tends to occur in areas that are covered by clothing or blankets, but often favors the lower face, neck, upper body, back, inner arms and body folds.
Causes: It occurs when the sweat glands become blocked and sweat escapes into the skin, leading to inflammation.
Treatment: The key to treatment is avoidance of excessive heat and humidity. In infants, over bundling should be avoided. Cool baths, light clothing and a cool environment are helpful. Lotions and creams can exacerbate the condition by blocking the sweat ducts and should be avoided. Typically, the rash will resolve spontaneously over a few days.
4. Viral rashes
What: Viral exanthems, also known as viral rashes, are also very common in children. Although some viruses cause rashes with distinct, identifiable features, many do not and are considered non-specific.
Where: This rash usually consists of small pink to red spots and bumps that may be scattered diffusely over the face and entire body. Although it can be mildly itchy, it is not usually very bothersome to the child. Sometimes, the child has other mild symptoms, such as low grade fever, runny nose, or diarrhea.
Treatment: This type of rash does not require specific treatment and usually resolves spontaneously within a few days.
What: Uricaria, also known as hives, presents with a widespread rash consisting of red swollen welts that are often intensely itchy.
Where: Individual lesions are transient, appearing to come and go and move around within a few hours. Younger children with hives often have visible swelling of the face, hands, and/or feet.
Causes: In younger children, hives are usually triggered by an underlying viral illness. Rarely, hives can be caused by exposure to medications, new foods, or other allergies.
Treatment: Treatment for hives is largely based upon symptomatic relief as, in most cases, the rash will resolve spontaneously within a couple of weeks. Oral antihistamines, such as Benadryl™, are often helpful. Cool compresses, oatmeal baths, and over the counter cooling lotions can be soothing as well. If hives are accompanied by significant facial swelling and/or difficulty breathing, emergency care should be sought immediately.