Is That Rash Serious?
If your child develops red, itchy or splotchy patches of skin, he may be suffering from an allergy-induced, bacterial or viral rash.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most rashes lasting two to three days are caused by a virus.
“While many rashes go away after a few days, some require more immediate treatment,” says Susan Bayliss, MD, a Washington University dermatologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “If your child’s rash begins to blister, hurt, secrete pus, or interfere with activities and/or sleeping habits, it’s important to seek medical attention.”
If your child is constantly itching or complaining of skin discomfort, he may have one of the following rashes:
- Eczema: This itchy rash often affects children ages 3 years or younger. Although eczema is not contagious, it is thought to be partially inherited and can be triggered by dry skin, exposure to irritants, infection and temperature changes. “For those with eczema, I recommend moisturizing throughout the day and avoiding scented soap products,” Dr. Berk says. “Keeping the skin protected and well hydrated is key.”
- Ringworm: Caused by fungus living on the body, ringworm forms red and itchy patches of skin shaped like a ring. Spread from person to person via direct contact, hairbrushes, other easily contaminated surfaces and sometimes animals, this skin infection is common among school-aged children. To treat ringworm, keep affected areas of the skin clean and dry and apply antifungal creams. Ringworm on the scalp (and some severe forms on the body) requires oral antifungal medicines.
- Molluscum: Molluscum is a viral infection commonly affecting children. Spread through direct contact or contact with contaminated toys, towels and other objects, molluscum causes raised wart-like nodules that may occur anywhere on the body. While molluscum lesions are often painless, they may become itchy and irritated and spread easily. Call your physician for treatment options.
- Psoriasis: This autoimmune skin disorder causes red, silvery and scaly skin. Attributed to genetics, as well as infections, stress and certain medications, psoriasis can affect all parts of the body. To treat mild forms of this condition, try applying topical corticosteroids, eating healthfully and maintaining a stress-free environment. For some patients, closely monitored exposure to natural sunlight may be helpful and appropriate.
“If your child’s rash lasts longer than three days or doesn’t respond to over-the-counter medications, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician,” says Kathy Quirin, RN, Answer Line nurse at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “While none of these skin conditions are life threatening, they can be a symptom of a underlying illness.”
To request an appointment with a dermatologist at St. Louis Children's Hospital, call 314.454.KIDS (5437) or toll free 800.678.KIDS.