5 Common Rash Conditions in Children

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  • Close-up of young child's abdomen with widespread red rash

    Rashes are common in childhood. In fact, you’ll likely deal with a number of rashes before your child grows into adulthood. Some rashes are harmless annoyances. Others are a symptom of a contagious disease or other medical condition.

    Learning to identify some of the most common types of children’s rashes will help you comfort your child and seek appropriate medical attention, if needed, when rashes occur.

    How many of these common rash conditions have you already seen?

  • 1
    Fifth Disease
    Boy with red cheeks examined by a pediatrician in a hospital

    Sometimes called erythema infectiosum, fifth disease is characterized by a bright red rash that usually first appears on the face. The rash later spreads to the torso, arms and legs and may be itchy.

    Other symptoms include low-grade fever, headaches, and a cough or runny nose. Some children also develop swollen glands and joints.

    Fifth disease is caused by a virus. It is contagious, but unfortunately, it’s most contagious before the rash appears, so by the time you notice it, it’s too late to take preventive action.

  • 2
    Treating Fifth Disease
    Young child resting under blanket on couch

    Most children with fifth disease get better without medical attention. If needed, you can give your child acetaminophen to relieve fever and pain. Encourage your child to rest.

    If your child has a weakened immune system (due to a medical condition or treatment) or a blood disorder (such as sickle cell anemia), contact your healthcare provider as soon as you notice fifth disease symptoms. These children may need medical treatment to prevent complications.

    Also notify your healthcare provider if you are pregnant. Exposure to the virus may cause problems during pregnancy. Your provider will want to monitor you carefully.

  • 3
    young boy with chicken pox

    Chickenpox is not nearly as common today as it was years ago. That’s because a highly effective chickenpox vaccine became available in 1995. Before the vaccine, approximately 4 million Americans, mostly children, got chickenpox each year; more than 10,500 people were hospitalized annually; and 100 to 150 people died of the disease yearly.

    A chickenpox rash begins with small red bumps that eventually blister. As the blisters break open and ooze, the rash takes on a crusty appearance. The rash is extremely itchy and irritating. Other symptoms include fever, headache, chills, and joint and muscle pain.

  • 4
    Managing Chickenpox
    Unseen child with chickenpox rash

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that all children receive two doses of the chickenpox (varicella) vaccine, one between 12 and 15 months of age and the second dose between ages 4 and 6. About 9 out of 10 children who receive both doses will be completely protected from chickenpox, according to the CDC.

    Vaccinated children who develop chickenpox generally have a milder form of the illness. You can use oatmeal baths and topical calamine lotion to ease the itching. Discourage your child from scratching, which increases the risk of infection.

  • 5
    Girl With Eczema Scratching Her Arm

    Also called atopic dermatitis, eczema is characterized by patches of red, dry, scaly skin. The rash may appear suddenly and can be anywhere on the body. The face is a common location for an eczema rash. Other common locations include areas of creased skin, such as the knee, neck or elbows. Eczema often runs in families. It is not contagious.

    Of children with eczema, 65% develop symptoms before one year of age; and 90% show symptoms by age 5. Some children outgrow eczema.

  • 6
    Treating Eczema
    Woman hand holding infant leg applying medical ointment

    Applying moisturizer to the skin can relieve the discomfort of eczema and may keep it from getting worse. If itching is annoying, you can apply over-the-counter itch-relieving cream.

    If you notice eczema symptoms, it’s a good idea to seek medical attention. The condition is often related to allergies, so your healthcare provider will want to evaluate your child’s overall health and consider the likelihood of allergies, given your family history. Your provider may be able to help you identify and avoid eczema triggers, and can prescribe medication, if needed, to keep your child comfortable.

  • 7
    Mother applying first aid to daughter with scraped knee

    Impetigo is a bacterial skin infection that often occurs when bacteria gets into a scratch or cut on the skin. An impetigo rash may feature small red bumps, fluid-filled blisters, and an oozing rash covered by scabs.

    Impetigo is highly contagious; in fact, children can spread the rash from one part of their body to another by scratching.

    This rash is most commonly seen in children age 2 to 6, and more common in the summer than in the winter likely because young children spend more time playing outside in warm weather.

  • 8
    Treating Impetigo
    Doctor applying gauze to child's arm, cropped view

    Wash the rash gently with soap and water and dry thoroughly afterward. (Do not let anyone else use the same washcloth or towel.) Cover the rash loosely with gauze, both to protect the skin while healing and to discourage scratching.

    Because it’s a bacterial infection, antibiotics are the treatment of choice for impetigo. Call your healthcare provider as soon as you notice symptoms of impetigo and keep your child out of childcare or school. Your child can return to school or daycare 24 hours after beginning antibiotic treatment.

  • 9
    Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease
    Baby with Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

    The rash that accompanies hand, foot, and mouth disease isn’t always readily apparent. The first symptoms of this illness are usually a fever, sore throat, and runny nose. Later, a rash of tiny blisters may appear on the hands, between the fingers, on the soles of the feet, on the buttocks or inside the mouth. Blisters within the mouth are uncomfortable and may make it difficult for a child to eat and drink.

    Hand, foot, and mouth disease is contagious and is spread via airborne droplets. Many children get hand, foot, and mouth disease at daycare or school.

  • 10
    Treating Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease
    Mother measuring temperature of daughter on sofa

    Hand, foot, and mouth disease usually clears up on its own in less than a week. Keep your child home until symptoms have resolved. You can administer acetaminophen as needed to control fever and ease discomfort. Encourage fluids; cold fluids may feel especially soothing to mouth sores. Avoid acidic drinks, such as orange juice and soda, as these may increase irritation.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 May 1
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Fifth Disease. American Academy of Family Physicians. https://familydoctor.org/condition/fifth-disease/?adfree=true
  2. Fifth Disease. Nemours Foundation. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/fifth.html
  3. Fifth Disease and Pregnancy. March of Dimes. https://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/fifth-disease-and-pregnancy.aspx?gclid=Cj0KCQiAm4TyBRDgARIsAOU75sqTULICBNTPMs6xt6qiJXKCJyq_KJdksmoH7RcI9J6yXlBoSCalWgoaAnmNEALw_wcB
  4. Chickenpox. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents/diseases/varicella.html
  5. First Aid: Chickenpox. Nemours Foundation. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/chickenpox-sheet.html
  6. Eczema: How to Help Your Child Avoid the Itch. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/skin/pages/Eczema.aspx
  7. Could My Child Have Eczema? American Academy of Dermatology Association. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/eczema/childhood/child-have
  8. Atopic Dermatitis: Symptoms. American Academy of Dermatology Association. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/eczema/types/atopic-dermatitis/symptoms
  9. Impetigo. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/skin/Pages/Impetigo.aspx
10 How to Treat Impetigo and Control this Common Skin Infection. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/how-treat-impetigo-and-control-common-skin-infection
11 12 Common Summertime Skin Rashes in Children. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/skin/Pages/Common-Summertime-Skin-Rashes-in-Children.aspx
12 Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000965.htm
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