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Skin Rashes in Children

Skin Rashes in Children Facts

A rash is a reaction of the skin. It can be caused by many things, such as a reaction by contact to a skin irritant, a drug reaction, an infection, or an allergic reaction. Many different agents can cause similar-appearing rashes because the skin has a limited number of possible responses. Very often the other associated symptoms or history, in addition to the rash, help establish the cause of the rash. A history of tick bites, exposure to other ill children or adults, recent antibiotic use, environmental exposures, or prior immunizations are all important elements of the patient's history to help determine the cause of a skin rash in a child.

Most rashes caused by viruses do not harm a child and go away over time without any treatment. However, some childhood rashes have serious or even life-threatening causes. Parents should be familiar with these rashes. Many rashes can look the same, making it difficult to know the exact diagnosis. See a doctor immediately for any concerns.

What Are the Signs, Symptoms, and Treatments of the Various Types of Bacterial Rashes?

Many childhood diseases have viral or bacterial causes and include a rash of some type. As additional vaccines become available, these diseases become less of a threat to a child's long-term health. A rash of any kind should be taken seriously, however, and may require a trip to the doctor's office for evaluation. Examples of viral or bacterial rashes include several common childhood illnesses.


Impetigo is a superficial skin infection caused by Streptococcus or Staphylococcus bacteria. It is often found around the nose and mouth but can occur anywhere. The rash is more common in the warmer months. It can also occur as a secondary infection in skin that has been damaged, such as with insect bites, poison ivy, eczema, or abrasions.

  • Symptoms and signs
    • Impetigo begins as small superficial blisters that rupture, leaving red, open patches of skin.
    • Often a honey-colored crust forms over this rash.
    • The rash may be quite itchy.
    • Impetigo is highly contagious. A child can spread the infection to other parts of the body by scratching himself or to other people by person to person (non-respiratory) contact.
    • Impetigo is rarely a serious disease but is generally treated to cure the patient, reduce the risk of complications, and lessen the likelihood of transmission to others.
  • Treatment
    • This infection of the skin is easily treated with prescription topical or oral antibiotics. Over-the-counter topical antibiotic ointments are less effective than prescription versions.
    • A child usually is no longer contagious after one to two days of therapy. The rash begins to heal in three to five days.
    • If the rash does not show signs of healing by the third day of treatment, the child needs to be seen by a doctor.
    • If itching is intense, the child's doctor can recommend anti-itch medications.

Scarlet Fever (Scarlatina)

Scarlet fever is simply a strep throat or other strep infection with a characteristic rash. The infection is caused by the bacteria group A Streptococcus pyogenes. Strep throat is most commonly seen in school-aged children in the winter and early spring, but it can occur in individuals of any age and in any season. It is very contagious, and the risk of transmission can be decreased with good hand washing. Strep infection may also occur around the anus or in the vaginal region.

The rash is not serious or contagious, but significant complications can occur from the underlying strep infection. The most worrisome of these is rheumatic fever, a serious disease that can damage the heart valves and cause long-term heart disease.

  • Symptoms and signs
    • The child's symptoms begin acutely with sore throat (which can be mild), moderate fever (101 F-103 F), headache, upset stomach, and swollen glands (lymph nodes) in the neck region.
    • After one to two days of these symptoms, the child develops a rash on the body that is red and has a sandpaper-like roughness. The classic medical description paints an accurate picture: "sunburn on skin with goose bumps." The rash usually spares the palms and soles.
    • The cheeks may look very flushed with a thin ring of normal skin color around the mouth.
    • Symptoms of perianal or vaginal strep infection are those of moderate redness (without discharge) of the area associated with itching and often pain with passing stool or urine.
  • Treatment
    • Streptococcal sore throat as well as perianal or vaginal strep infections should be treated with antibiotics.
    • Have a child seen by a doctor immediately if one suspects that he or she has strep throat or scarlet fever.
    • A child will require a full course of antibiotics, which should be finished even if the child is better before completion.
    • A child may return to school or day care in 24 hours if the fever has resolved and he or she is feeling better.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/20/2017

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Treatment of Yeast Infection Diaper Rash

The primary treatment for Candida diaper rash involves antifungal topical treatment and decreasing moisture in the diaper area. Nystatin (Mycostatin), clotrimazole (Lotrimin), and miconazole (Micatin, Monistat-Derm) are topical over-the-counter (non prescription) treatments of equal strength for treating Candida diaper dermatitis. Occasionally, other prescription antifungal creams, such as ketoconazole (Nizoral cream) and econazole (Spectazole) may be necessary. How long treatment should last has not been completely defined, although typically the cream or ointment is applied at each diaper change until the rash is resolved, usually in four to seven days.

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