Caught in the crossfire of irritants like a pesky illness, unsuspecting foods, or even certain metals, a kiddo’s skin often waves a red flag – a rash. So, ever caught yourself asking, “What causes the most common childhood skin rash?” Buckle up as we unpick the mystery behind these sporadic spotty outbreaks.
The rash is one of the most common reasons young children’s parents take them to the doctor. Most of the time, though, spots don’t mean anything dangerous. If the child’s general health is okay and there are no other symptoms, you may wait a few days before taking any action regarding the rash. In fact, many different kinds of spots will go away on their own.
However, if your kid has a high fever, difficulty breathing, vomiting, or behavioral changes (such as acting unwell or not like themselves), you should visit a doctor.
Different things can cause the same kind of rash, so tell the doctor what the rash looks like, how widespread it is, how many and how big the spots are, how long the rash has been there, and if it itches. Here is a list of the different kinds of rashes that kids can get.
The most common allergic rash is hives, which are raised, big welts that are often round and have a pale center. They are very itchy. An allergic response to medicine, food, a virus, or stings and bites from insects can cause hives.
The rash appears suddenly and rapidly, covering the entire body within hours. Localized hives generally happen when a person comes into direct contact with something they can’t handle, like plants, pollen, or foods.
A wound gets infected when germs on the skin’s surface or from outside sources get into a small wound from a skin irritation, scratch, cut, or bite. Because of inflammation, the area gets red and wet, pus and yellowish scabs form, and the skin around it gets swollen and sore.
Around a kid’s lymph nodes, there may be swelling, and the child may get a fever. Scratching the wound might spread bacteria and lead to more sores for the child.
Impetigo can happen on any part of the body where there is a cut or wound. A rash generally happens when Streptococcus or Staphylococcus bacteria get into a scratch, bite, or other small wound. The wound gets hot and wet, and pus and yellowish scabs form on it.
Scratching the wound can spread the bacteria and lead to more sores that develop over the course of a few days and remain for four to six days before drying up and producing scabs if the child does not seek medical attention. Most of the time, antibiotic creams or pills are used to treat it.
Streptococcus bacteria cause cellulitis, an infection of a small skin area. In one spot, the skin gets hot, red, and swollen, making it easy to tell it apart from healthy skin. Most of the time, the germs have no clear way to get into the skin. It can sometimes come with a fever and a general feeling of being sick. Cellulitis needs to be checked out and treated quickly because the illness can spread quickly.
Tinea and candida are two types of fungi that can cause skin diseases that look like rashes. Tinea infections, also called “ringworm,” are oval or ring-shaped sores with normal-looking skin in the middle and an itchy, scaly, and slightly raised edge. The rash can show up on the head, face, body, or nails.
Oral thrush, a white coating on the tongue or inside the mouth, and a glossy, red rash near the diaper (infected diaper rash) are also symptoms of a Candida infection in infants. Candida diseases can happen at any age in a child. They thrive in moist crevices of skin, such as a baby’s creased chin or the spaces between toes. They cause itching and sometimes discolored nails (athlete’s foot).
The itch mite causes scabies, a skin illness. The female mite digs into the skin between the fingers, wrist, and armpit. Scabies can show up on the palms and soles of a baby’s hands and feet.
Scabies can cause a lot of itching, which can lead to sores, blisters, scabs, and even a secondary bacterial illness. The mite sometimes makes tiny gray tunnels in the skin that can sometimes be seen. Scabies is very infectious, so your doctor should treat you as soon as possible.
Lice are bugs that lay eggs while they are stuck to your hair. When the eggs hatch after about a week, they make the head itch. Lice can be seen using a magnifying lens and a lice comb near the hairline, neck, and ear creases. Even though lice are easily spread, it’s important to remember that they don’t spread disease and won’t make kids sick. Lice will die if you treat them right, and they won’t be able to spread.
Warts are a common skin virus that affects children. There are different kinds, and they can be found on the fingers, hands, and feet, either alone or in groups. Most warts have a rough, hard surface and are slightly raised above the skin, but plantar warts, which are on the bottom of the foot, are flattened by the weight of the body. Most warts disappear without treatment, though recurrence is possible. Plantar warts usually need treatment.
Molluscum contagiosum is a virus that causes another common rash in kids. The rash appears as tiny, raised lumps (called “mollusks”) between 2 and 5 millimeters in diameter. The rash can be different colors, but it is often the same color as the child’s healthy skin. In the middle of each bump is a small depression.
Usually, the child doesn’t mind them, but occasionally they can be uncomfortable or irritating, leading to skin tears or infections if the youngster scratches. The “mollusks” can be found alone or in groups all over the child’s body. Usually, they clear up within a few weeks, but occasionally they stick around for months or even years. Most of the time, treatment is not suggested.
Most people with eczema have one of three types: atopic dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, or contact dermatitis.
Atopic dermatitis (AD)
Atopic dermatitis is a skin disease that lasts for a long time and affects children from allergy-prone families. The rash is usually dry and itchy, and the skin gets red, irritable, and scaley. When you scratch, you might break the skin, which can lead to an infection and scars.
Seborrheic dermatitis, also called seborrhea, is a skin condition that most often affects babies from 0 to 3 months of age. Although the precise reason is unknown, it is assumed to be related to a malfunction in the skin’s oil and sweat production.
Unlike atopic eczema, the rash is dry, red, and slightly flaky. It is not very itchy. Most of the time, seborrhea is only on the face, neck, chest, skin folds, and diaper area. Cradle cap is the name for yellowish scabs that can form on the head of babies. Most of the time, this rash goes away after a few months.
Contact dermatitis happens when things that irritate the skin, like nickel, cosmetics, creams, and detergents, cause a hypersensitivity response. The skin turns red and angry-looking, and sometimes there are bumps or papules on the skin in the affected areas. The rash is usually itchy and might also be wet and have blisters. Things like poison ivy cause contact dermatitis.
When pee and poop make the skin in the diaper area wet, red, and irritated, this is called a diaper rash. Germs or fungi can enter the skin through the microscopic pores caused by this irritation and exacerbate the rash.
Rubella and the measles
Rubella and measles viruses cause a rash of small, flat red spots all over the body, as well as fever, fatigue, and a cough. Rubella and measles are now very rare in the U.S. because most children get vaccine against them at 15 months and then again between the ages of 4 and 6. Even though rubella has been completely wiped out in the U.S., it is still being vaccinated against in other places.
Chickenpox, also known as varicella, manifests first as a rash of red dots that spread rapidly and appear like mosquito bites. Within a few hours, the marks become fluid-filled boils that break and leave scabs. The vesicles are easy to spot because the skin around them is normal. There may also be a fever, a stuffy nose, and blisters in the mouth.
The rash is very itchy, so keeping the child from scratching too much is best. Otherwise, the child could get a bacterial illness in the skin, which could spread to other organs. Infections caused by bacteria can also cause wounds and scars.
Children are likely to contract chickenpox from one another and spread it across their homes and daycares because of the contagious disease. After five to seven days, all of the scabs will be dry, which means the child is no longer infectious. Most kids in the U.S. now get a shot against chickenpox.
Streptococcal infection of the throat causes scarlet fever. Some of the symptoms are a sore throat, a high fever, and a rash that starts on the neck and face and moves down the body. The skin turns red and gets small bumps that feel like sandpaper. The skin around the mouth is usually covered and appears pale.
After five to six days, the rash goes away, and the child’s skin often starts to peel, especially on the fingers. Take your child to the doctor if they get scarlet fever; strep throat can be treated with antibiotics.
Mono, which is short for mononucleosis, is a viral illness that often affects kids and teens in school. Some of the symptoms are a sore throat, a lot of trouble swallowing, a fever, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck. The rash is pink, has no clear cause, and is most noticeable on the torso.
Roseola, also called “sixth disease,” is a virus that causes a very high fever that lasts for three to four days but doesn’t cause many other symptoms. The heat then drops quickly, and a rash shows up within a few hours. The rash is not very clear, is pale pink, and is mostly on the chest and neck. It doesn’t itch, goes away when pressure is put on it, and is gone in one to two days. Most of the time, a child with roseola will be more irritable when the rash shows up than when they have a fever.
A virus also causes the fifth disease and starts with mild cold symptoms and a fever. It is caused by the parvovirus B19, and the rash shows up about a week later. A slapped face looks like this: the cheeks are very red, and the area around the mouth is pale. While the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet are often spared, some children get a rash that spreads from head to toe. The rash may look like lace and may be itchy. It normally lasts between one and three weeks.
Hand, Food, and Mouth Disease
The coxsackie virus is responsible for hand, foot, and mouth disease, which manifests as sores in the mouth, fingers, and feet. It usually happens to kids under 4 years old and causes fever and sores in the mouth that make it hard to eat. Usually, the disease only lasts a few days, but the mouth sores can last longer. This illness can happen more than once to a child.
A tick bite can spread an illness that leads to Lyme disease. Usually, rash and flu-like symptoms like fever, headache, and body aches show up two to six weeks after a tick bite. The rash is typically red and round, resembling a target, and it appears at the site of one or more tick bites. Lyme disease can also happen without a rash and show up a few months later as joint pain, chest pain, headaches, or problems with the nervous system.
Acne is a common rash in teens. It happens when hair follicles get clogged up because the skin is making more sebum than usual. This will cause a small area of skin redness with red bumps called papules or pustules that are filled with fluid. If acne isn’t handled properly, it can get worse and cause cysts that can leave scars.
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