Common Skin Rashes in Children

Your child’s health and wellbeing are among one of our highest priorities but at times can be mystifying. A sudden rash can be scary, especially if you aren’t familiar with common rashes that often appear in children. How do you know if it’s serious and what do you do about it? These and other questions concerning skin rashes in children are answered here to help you know when a rash is serious or when you could treat it at home.

How Do You Identify a Rash?

Common in children and fairly easy to identify, a rash is accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Color changes like bright red rash or pink red rash
  • Welts or Lesions
  • Raised bumps
  • Red Patches
  • Itchy rash

Sometimes a skin rash appears overnight or within minutes and can be located on various parts of the body, depending on the cause. While you may know what rashes look like, you may not know that symptoms include While a rash may go away on it’s own without treatment, there are some that need medical intervention as quickly as possible.

Causes of Child Rashes

Rashes can be caused by a variety of conditions, some of which may be contagious and others that are a result of contact with allergens. The following are common rashes found in children along with a brief overview of treating them.


Chickenpox is a viral infection that is highly contagious but not usually life threatening. Typically found in children aged 1 – 9, symptoms include a rash of small red spots that fill with fluid and eventually dry out, scab over, and fall off. It usually starts with a fever, fatigue, and loss of appetite. However, chickenpox usually clears on it’s own within a week.

Some children will have a mild case with only a few spots while others may develop a full-blown body rash. Treatment for the itching and fever is all that can be done as the skin infection runs it’s course. If you think your child has Chickenpox, try calamine lotion and cold compresses for the itch and Tylenol for the fever. Seek medical advice if a fever gets too high or if the virus begins to affect the eyes.

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Like chickenpox, Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease is also a highly contagious virus mostly found in young children. The rash usually appears on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, other areas of the hands and feet, and as ulcers around the mouth. The best treatment is through the use of pain relievers until the rash clears up, typically in seven to ten days.


Anyone can get Impetigo but it mainly affects the very young. It is a skin infection caused by bacteria. There are two types: bullous and non-bullous. Both types are contagious. Bullous impetigo shows up as fluid-filled blisters on the trunk. These pop open in a few days and leave behind a yellowish crush. Non-bullous impetigo is found around the nose and mouth. When these blisters pop open they leave a crust that is yellowish-brown. If a rash appears to look like Impetigo, see a physician for treatment. Antibiotics can address the infection and reduce the amount of time the rash lasts.

Heat Rash or Prickly Heat

Heat rash is often found on babies in the folds of their skin. This rash is small, prickly bumps that may be itchy. It is caused by overheating and sweat glands becoming obstructed in the affected area. While there isn’t a specific treatment for prickly heat, staying cool and keeping the folds of the skin dry will help it resolve without treatment.


A measles rash is not as common a rash anymore due to widespread vaccinations but is still around. Known for being one of the most contagious viruses there is, measles is typically accompanied by a fever, fatigue, runny nose, and common cold symptoms. It appears on the skin as brownish-red blotches that start at the head and neck and go down and typically goes away within five days. If you suspect measles, you should consult a physician immediately as complications are common and it can be deadly.


Psoriasis appears as a red skin, crusty skin, or dry skin, or can also have silver-colored scaly patches. This is a chronic condition that should be treated by a dermatologist. It is not contagious but it can be uncomfortable and cause self-esteem issues in both the young and old. Treatments can address the acute flare up and long term maintenance of the disease. Therapies may include topical steroids, topical retinols, medication injections, light therapy or biologics.


Ringworm is not caused by worms, even though it sounds like it might be. It is a fungal infection that causes a rash in the shape of red or silver rings, typically on the arms and legs. Ringworm can be itchy, is highly infectious and can be spread to others. Your doctor can prescribe anti-fungal medication to treat


Scabies is caused by tiny mites that dig under the skin and cause extremely itchy, red spots and blisters. Mites spread from person to person during play, hugging, or through other contact. If you suspect scabies, see your physician for oral or topical medication to kill the mites underneath the skin.

Contact Dermatitis AKA Hives

Contact dermatitis is a rash with raised bumps, also known as hives, and is the visible response of the body having an allergic reaction. It could appear on a child’s skin within minutes or hours after exposure to a food or medicine, poison ivy or poison sumac, insect bites, certain detergents or chemicals, or other irritant. These spots can appear anywhere on the body or only in the area that came in contact with the allergen. Hives are not contagious from person to person, although scratching at rashes caused by poison ivy can spread the plant oils to other parts of the body.

Some kids may not even know they have an allergy until an outbreak of hives. Most cases of hives can be treated with antihistamines and topical steroids. Severe reactions that cause difficulty breathing or extreme swelling require urgent medical attention. Determining what the triggers of allergic reactions are and avoiding them is key in preventing future outbreaks.

Scarlet Fever

Scarlet fever is a dangerous, contagious bacterial infection that shows up in younger kids, normally between the ages of two and eight. This red or pink rash is easily identified and feels like sandpaper. The initial signs of scarlet fever are headache, sore throat, and fever with the rash appearing between two and five days later. Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics if scarlet fever is found to be the cause of the rash.

Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a contagious poxvirus that appears as painless raised bumps or lesions that almost look like warts, giving them the name water warts. They can be itchy and scratching them can spread the virus to other areas of the body. While most will disappear over time on their own, a physician can remove them more quickly by freezing them, cutting them, using a laser, or using a topical removal product. However, oral treatment options are recommended for a child due to the convenience and comfort of that type of therapy.

Fifth Disease AKA Slapped Cheek

Often contracted by a child, Fifth Disease can appear in adults as well. Symptoms include a bright red rash on the cheeks, arms, or legs, causing this illness to also be called Slapped Cheek Syndrome.

In children, it is normally mild and no treatment is necessary. However, in adults with weakened immune systems or in the elderly, it can be serious. Symptoms include a low grade fever, nausea, headache, sore throat, or stuffy nose that may not appear until up to two weeks after exposure. The rash is often the first symptom to appear and may appear, disappear, then reappear on another part of the body.

This skin condition will resolve on it’s own over the course of one to three weeks. The use of pain relievers will help manage the symptoms until it goes away. Once a child has experienced this viral skin condition, they are no longer at risk for contracting it again as their body develops immunity to it.


Children are prone to catching viruses through exposure at daycare, school, or other group environment. Rashes are normally not a cause for panic but keep and eye on the symptoms as they develop. If you are unsure if your child’s rash is a cause for concern, or if your child cannot breathe, or symptoms are getting worse, talk to your pediatrician.

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