Children’s Health: 11 Causes of Common Skin Rashes

Reviewed on 11/15/2021

Sunscreen Can Be Irritating

Ingredients in sunscreen can cause skin rashes in sensitive children.

Wearing sunscreen is necessary to guard against damaging UVA and UVB rays from the sun. Excess sun exposure and sunburns increase the risk of skin cancer, including potentially deadly melanoma. However, sunscreen may cause a skin rash in those who have sensitive skin. Steer clear of sunscreens that contain para-amniobenzoic acid (PABA), an ingredient that may trigger a skin rash in sensitive individuals when exposed to the sun. Apply broad spectrum sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher before going into the sun. It is not advised to put sunscreen on babies under the age of 6 months old. Ask your child's pediatrician how to protect your young infant from the sun.

Exposure to the sun and heat may also cause heat rash (prickly heat or miliaria), which looks like a cluster of small blisters or red bumps. Prickly heat rash resolves by itself with a few days to a few weeks. If your child develops a mole that changes shape, color, or size, seek medical attention. Itching is another symptom that is cause for concern. Sun exposure may also trigger a skin condition called granuloma annulare. Symptoms of this condition include raised red or skin-colored bumps that are in ring patterns on the hands and feet.

Potential Dangers of Triclosan

Wash hands with plain soap and water.

Triclosan is an ingredient found in some antibacterial soaps, toothpastes, body washes, and some cosmetics. It may cause a contact dermatitis rash in some kids who have sensitive skin. Authorities are concerned that use of triclosan may contribute to an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Short-term use of triclosan is associated with decreased thyroid hormone levels in animal studies. It is not known if triclosan has the same effect in humans. Ongoing studies are investigating the safety of long-term use of triclosan. If the chemical is an irritant and causes rashes for your child, encourage hand washing with plain soap and water.

Lotion May Trigger Eczema

Apply the right type of moisturizer after bathing to avoid an itchy rash.

Lotions may contain fragrance, phthalates, parabens, and other ingredients that may trigger eczema, a condition that causes red, inflamed skin. Another name for eczema is atopic dermatitis. Besides redness, other eczema symptoms include itching, dryness, bumps, peeling, flakiness, and fissures. If your child suffers from dry, itchy skin, steer clear of moisturizers that have irritating ingredients. If your baby or child has eczema, bathe with mild soap. Be especially careful when toweling off. Pat skin dry. Do not rub. Ask your child's pediatrician for recommendations about moisturizers that are safe for babies and children who have eczema. Some moisturizers may help minimize scaly skin, itching, and other common symptoms associated with the skin condition. If your child's skin often breaks and oozes, it may lead to an infection. Talk to your child's pediatrician. Some doctors recommend over-the-counter hydrocortisone to treat mild eczema and relieve itching.

All about Wipes and Washcloths

Wet washcloths are a great alternative to baby wipes.

Baby wipes may contain ingredients that can irritate baby's skin and contribute to skin rashes. Alcohol, fragrances, and preservatives in baby wipes may trigger contact dermatitis. The symptoms may include red, itchy skin, dry skin, hives, blisters, burning, and stinging. If your child is affected, use wet washcloths to clean baby instead. If you are traveling or on the go, pack wet washcloths in a resealable plastic bag. Chemical sensitivity to baby wipes may lead to diaper rash, which appears as a red rash on the buttocks. Peeling, blisters, and pimples may also be signs of a diaper rash. Some pediatricians recommend the use of hydrocortisone cream to ease this type of rash. Talk to your baby's pediatrician if diaper rash is a continuous issue. Recurrent rashes may lead to an infection.

Treatment for diaper rash center's around exposing your baby's bottom to air, frequent diaper changes, and using creams to soothe irritated skin.

Laundry Detergent and Rashes

Laundry detergent may cause allergic reactions and skin rashes.

Some laundry detergents contain chemicals that trigger contact dermatitis. This is a rash that occurs when something that irritates the skin touches it. Babies and children who have eczema may be more likely to get contact dermatitis than those without this skin condition. If your child is affected, wash your child's clothes using laundry detergent that does not contain perfumes and dyes. Look for hypoallergenic laundry detergent. Run the clothing, bedding, and towels through multiple rinse cycles to remove all traces of laundry detergent before placing items into the dryer. Ask your dermatologist for a recommendation about what kind of laundry detergent to use if you or your child get dermatitis from these products.

What about Shampoo and Conditioner?

Shampoos and conditioner are common causes of scalp irritation and rashes.

Shampoo and conditioners may contain ingredients that can irritate skin on the scalp and lead to a rash. Fragrance is a potentially offending agent, so are chemicals like formaldehyde, phthalates, and 1,4 dioxane. If your child develops contact dermatitis after using a certain shampoo or conditioner, switch to natural unscented products that have the least amount of ingredients. Minimizing your child's exposure to chemicals and fragrances in shampoo and conditioner may help reduce or eliminate red skin, rashes, irritation, and urticaria (itching) on the scalp. Seborrheic dermatitis is a scaly rash that occurs on the scalp. It makes the scalp red. Special shampoos may help keep this type of skin condition under control.

Dryer Sheets and Fabric Softener

Dryer sheets and fabric softener may lead to a red rash.

Fabric softener and dryer sheets contain chemicals and fragrances that can irritate sensitive skin. If you notice itchy, red patches on your baby's skin after using dryer sheets or fabric softener, they may be to blame for the skin irritation. They may also irritate the eyes, skin, and nose. They may even lead to a sore throat. Keep clothes soft and avoid harsh chemicals that can irritate skin by adding 1/2 cup of vinegar or 1/2 cup of baking soda to the washer during the rinse cycle. If dryer sheets and fabric softener make your skin red, switch to nontoxic dryer balls instead to soften clothes and ease your symptoms.

Irritating Cleaning Products

Cleaning products may contain ingredients that cause skin conditions.

Just because a product is labeled nontoxic does not mean that it truly is nontoxic. Certain chemicals in cleaning products, like ammonia, may cause lung and skin irritation. It is poisonous if swallowed. Another type of chemical in some disinfectants and detergents, alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs), may disrupt hormone function. To be safe, clean with baking soda and water or vinegar. If you do use commercial cleaning products, choose ones that have the least amount of added chemicals. If your skin looks red after contact with certain cleaning products, they may be to blame.

Ingredients in Soap

Steer clear of soaps that have preservatives.

Soap may contain ingredients that cause dry skin, a skin rash, or red skin. Even soap that is formulated for babies may contain harmful ingredients like formaldehyde that may irritate the eyes, lungs, and skin. Soap is also a common trigger for eczema. Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is one of the most common rashes in babies and young children. Infants and children who have allergies or asthma are at an increased risk of developing eczema compared to babies and children who do not have these conditions. Look for mild soap that will not make your child's skin red (erythema) and produce a rash. Ask your pediatrician for recommendations.

See your doctor if your child develops any unusual rash. Several conditions may cause rashes in children including chicken pox, pityriasis rosea, fifth disease, impetigo, psoriasis, ringworm, roseola, and many more. Lyme disease produces a distinctive bullseye rash in people who are infected.

Avoid Sunscreen with DEET

Do not use DEET on babies younger than 2 months of age.

Do not use sunscreens that have the insect repellent DEET in them. Ingredients in commercial sunscreens enhance the absorption of DEET into the skin. DEET also makes sunscreen less effective. Experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend using insect repellents that have 10% to 30% of DEET on children older than 2 months of age. The lower the percentage of DEET that is in a product, the less time it is effective. Read the label on your product. Parents should not use DEET on babies younger than 2 months of age.

Do Not Bring Pesticides Inside

Babies may ingest pesticide when they crawl on the ground and put their hands in their mouths.

Toddlers, babies, and children spend a lot of time outside crawling and playing on the ground. Small children pick up pesticides and other pollutants on the ground and can track them inside. If kids touch the ground outside or floors inside and then put their hands in their mouths, they ingest pesticide and other chemicals. Keep your home clean and use nontoxic products to mop floors and clean and disinfect hard surfaces like countertops in the bathroom and kitchen.

Children’s Health: 11 Causes of Common Skin Rashes

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