Symptoms and Signs of Skin Rashes in Children

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 7/29/2021

Doctor's Notes on Skin Rashes in Children

Skin rashes in children are common in children. A skin rash is considered as a sign of an underlying problem, and the rashes vary according to the cause of the rash. Rashes that occur with life-threatening underlying causes are as follows:

  • Petechiae are flat red dots on the skin that do not fade when pressure is applied. Causes include bacterial sepsis and meningococcemia.
  • With Rocky Mount spotted fever, red spots on the wrist and ankles spread toward the trunk and blanche (turn white) when pressure is applied and later becomes petechiae.
  • In Lyme disease, a red tender nodule enlarges into a red ring that spreads outward.
  • With Kawasaki disease, there are flat red lesions, raised red lesions, blisters, and possibly all of the rash types on a single child. Redness and swelling of the fingers and toes may be associated with peeling skin.
  • In toxic shock syndrome, a person may have sunburn-like rash in areas normally covered by clothes. Some children also have skin peeling on their palms and soles of their feet.

Rashes that occur with bacteria as the underlying causes are as follows:

  • Impetigo: Small superficial blisters rupture and are then covered often by a light-yellow crust that is itchy.
  • Scarlet fever: A red sandpaper-like rash that looks like "sunburn with goosebumps" usually does not occur on the palms and soles.

Rashes that occur with viruses as the underlying causes are as follows:

  • Chickenpox: Small superficial blisters rupture in 1-2 days and form a crusty scab that falls off in 2-3 days.
  • Measles: Reddish or purplish rash on the face and behind the ears eventually spreads down the body to the thighs and feet.
  • Rubella: A pink or light reddish rash on the face spreads to the body with mild itching.
  • Fifth disease: Bright red cheeks on the face fade after a day or two to form a lacey red rash throughout the body but mainly on the arms.
  • Roseola infantum: Small pink, flat, slightly red lesions appear in the trunk and spread to the extremities and last only about 1-2 days.
  • Hand, foot and mouth disease: Blisters develop in the mouth and tongue and on the palms and soles. Some children may have involvement of the lower legs, buttocks, and/or the genital area.

Rashes that occur with parasitic or fungal organisms as the underlying causes are as follows:

  • Scabies: An itchy reddish rash usually occurs between the fingers and in armpits and wrists and arms. It may develop a wavy pattern.
  • Ringworm: A reddish oval with scaly skin in the middle enlarges over time. Hair loss in the rash may occur (also termed tinea corporis or tinea capitis).
  • Athlete's foot: very itchy reddish skin between the toes (also termed tinea pedis)
  • Milia: small white bumps on the nose, cheeks, and chin in newborns
  • Cradle cap: Greasy, scaly, bumpy red skin occurs on the scalp and behind the ears, in the armpits, and in the diaper area (also known as seborrheic dermatitis).
  • Infantile acne: raised reddish bumps usually on the cheeks and nose of infants
  • Erythema toxicum: multiple flat reddish areas with a small raised white or yellow bump in the center
  • Miliaria: small clear blisters usually on the nose (also known as prickly heat)
  • Candidal rash: very red, raised area with discrete borders usually in the diaper area and the genitalia and in the creases and folds of baby's skin (also termed diaper rash or yeast infection)
  • Irritant diaper rash: similar to candidal rash but not in the creases and folds

Another rash type that is the result of an immune reaction in the skin is termed contact dermatitis rash that is red, itchy and may blister; it usually only occurs where the skin has touched the irritant. For example, underneath a ring on a finger.

What Are the Treatments of Rashes?

There are many types of rashes that are treated by diagnosing the underlying cause and then treating it. For example, treating a diaper rash requires drying the area and ridding the rash area of Candida fungi while other rashes that occur from skin infections may require antibiotics. Many rashes, however, can be treated at home with one or more of the following:

You may detect items that cause a rash, like perfumes or certain chemicals. Avoid them or do not let them touch your skin. Seek medical care immediately if the rash forms blisters, or if a rash spreads quickly, or if you develop a fever and or if you have fluid oozing from the rash.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.