Rashes in kids are rarely a reason for concern. Treatments can help relieve the itch, and you can talk with a doctor to rule out any serious causes.
Skin rashes are common in children. Here are 20 of the most common rashes in children and how to identify them.
It’s best to contact your child’s pediatrician or another healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis. They can also advise you on the most effective treatment.
Cellulitis is a painful bacterial skin infection. It often starts as a swollen, discolored area on your skin that feels hot and tender to the touch. It can occur anywhere on your body or face where you’ve had an injury, cut, or bug bite.
Cellulitis can often be treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, cellulitis can spread through the lymph nodes and bloodstream.
Chickenpox, which is technically called varicella, is an itchy rash with red blisters all over the body, including the scalp and bottoms of the feet. A two-dose vaccine can help prevent this condition in about
Contact dermatitis happens when you come into contact with allergens. When the substance touches the skin, it may cause:
- dry, flaky skin
- an itchy rash
Avoiding substances you are allergic to can help prevent rash.
Eczema appears as itchy, dry, scaly, or thickened skin that can look red, brown, purple, or ashen, depending on skin tone. The most common type of eczema is atopic dermatitis, which occurs due to a weakened skin barrier due to factors like genetics, dry skin, immune system changes, and environmental triggers.
Erythema multiforme is a rare skin disorder caused by the herpes simplex virus or certain medications. It typically leads to a mild rash, called erythema multiforme minor, that can have a bullseye pattern. The rash may start on the backs of the hands and tops of the feet, then spread to the trunk or other areas.
A more severe form of the condition is called erythema multiforme major. This involves a more painful rash that affects the mucous membranes, and causes joint pain and fatigue. As the rash fades, you may have scarring, or a darkening of the skin where the rash had been.
Fifth disease, or slapped cheek syndrome, is a common viral infection caused by parvovirus B19. It causes a red rash on the cheeks, arms, and legs. Other symptoms include low grade fever, headache, and runny nose. Once you see the rash, though, it means it is likely no longer contagious. This condition is usually mild and will go away on its own.
HFMD is a highly contagious virus that typically affects children under the age of 5 years who attend day care or school. It causes uncomfortable blisters or sores in the mouth and a rash on the hands and feet, along with fever, sore throat, and general malaise.
Heat rash develops in hot, humid weather when pores become blocked and sweat can’t escape. The rash appears as small red or white fluid-filled bumps in areas that sweat more, such as the face. The most common heat rash in children is called Miliaria crystallina. This type isn’t painful, doesn’t itch, and usually goes away without treatment.
Hives, which are also called urticaria, are typically temporary raised bumps or itchy, raised welts that usually go away on their own. With chronic hives or hives due to a severe allergic reaction, it’s important to get medical help or go to the emergency room.
This bacterial infection causes blisters and sores on the face, arms, and legs. It is caused by Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria. Impetigo most commonly affects children from ages
While not technically a rash, certain insect bites or stings — such as from fleas, bed bugs, and lice — can look similar to a rash. Talk with a doctor if your child has many bites or has a sting or bite that’s very painful.
When a rash is an emergency
Rashes in children are rarely an emergency. But if you notice the following symptoms, it’s time to get immediate care for your child:
- shortness of breath
- tightness or swelling in the throat
- skin peeling away or blisters on the mouth
- joint pain
- tender areas on the skin or body
- red streaks on the skin
- atypical bleeding or bruises under the rash
Keratosis pilaris is a harmless skin condition that causes patches of rough bumps to appear on the skin. It’s often called chicken skin because it resembles goosebumps. In reality, the bumps are from dead skin cells clogging hair follicles. The bumps may get worse in the winter when the skin is dry, but they are not typically itchy or uncomfortable.
Measles, or rubeola, is a serious viral infection that grows in the cells lining the throat and lungs. It causes flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough, runny nose, and a sore throat.
A few days later, a red, reddish-brown, or purple rash appears on the face and spreads all over the body. Next, tiny spots with blue-white centers may form in the mouth. Severe complications, including brain swelling, may develop.
Though measles has no treatment, the measles vaccine is
Molluscum contagiosum is a virus that causes small, raised bumps on the skin. The bumps are benign (harmless) and painless, and they typically go away on their own between 2 months and 4 years. Some medications and surgical treatments are available.
Pityriasis rosea causes an oval-shaped or Christmas tree-shaped viral rash that often starts with a raised patch of skin measuring up to 4 centimeters, called a mother or herald patch. Days later, you may see smaller itchy patches on the back or abdomen. Other symptoms include fever, sore throat, fatigue, and headache. The rash typically goes away in 1–3 months.
Plants like poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac contain a toxic sap or oil called urushiol, which irritates the skin if touched. The rash develops 12–72 hours after coming into contact with urushiol and typically lasts 1–3 weeks. Washing the skin with cool water and soap may help. Wash any clothes, tools, or pets that also may have come into contact with the oil.
Psoriasis is a common, chronic, immune-mediated disease that affects children and adults. The most common type is plaque psoriasis. Children typically develop scaly skin patches on the scalp first. Scales may also appear on the face or in skin folds. A variety of treatment options exist for psoriasis in children.
Ringworm, or tinea, is a fungal infection that causes itchy, ring-shaped, scaly patches on the skin that can look different depending on where the infection is on the body. Treatment involves 2–4 weeks of oral and topical antifungal medications.
Scabies is a skin infestation caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite. The mites reproduce on the surface of the skin and then burrow in to lay eggs, which causes an intensely itchy, bumpy rash that gets worse at night. Treatment includes topical lotions and creams or oral medications.
Scarlet fever, or scarlatina, causes a blotchy and bright red rash in lighter skin tones but is harder to see in dark skin tones. The rash may later become rough, like sandpaper. It begins on the neck, in the groin, and under the arms, then spreads.
It’s caused by a strep throat infection if the bacteria releases a toxin. Scarlet fever typically affects children ages
Rashes are extremely common in childhood and go away on their own. Some may need treatment with medications, such as antibiotics or antifungals.
Talk with your child’s pediatrician or healthcare professional if you have any concerns about your child’s rash or other symptoms, as rashes could be due to a more serious illness or infection.