Toddlers are germy little individuals. Allowing toddlers to congregate together is basically inviting illness into your home. You’ll never be exposed to as many bugs as when you have a toddler in day care.

That’s just a fact.

Of course, experts say this is a good thing. Toddlers are simply building up their immunity for the future. But that’s of little comfort when you’re in the middle of it, dealing with fevers, runny noses, and episodes of vomiting every other week.

Still, as much as sickness can start to seem like a way of life during the toddler years, there are certain issues that understandably trigger concern. High fevers and accompanying rashes are in that mix.

Why do kids get rashes after a fever?

You won’t make it through the toddler years without your child experiencing a fever. In fact, if you’ve made it this far into parenting, you’re probably already a fever-treating pro.

But in case you’re unsure of how to handle a fever, the American Academy of Pediatrics makes some recommendations.

First, recognize that fevers are the body’s natural defense against infection. They actually serve a good purpose! This means your focus should be on keeping your child comfortable, not necessarily on reducing their fever.

The degree of a fever does not always correlate with the severity of an illness, and fevers usually run their course within a few days. Contact your pediatrician when a fever is over 102°F (38.8°C) for more than 24 hours.

Most doctors will say you shouldn’t worry about trying to reduce a fever in a toddler unless it is 102°F (38.8°C) or higher. But when in doubt, you should always call your pediatrician for further instructions.

Something else that is common with kids is the development of rashes. Diaper rash. Heat rash. Contact rash. The list goes on, and the likelihood is that your toddler has fallen victim to a rash or two already in his or her short life.

But what about when a fever is followed by a rash?

Common rashes after fever in toddlers

Generally, if your child has a fever first, followed by a rash, one of these three conditions is likely to blame.

Roseola

Roseola infantum is most common in children under age 2. It usually starts with a high fever, between 102°F and 105°F (38.8° to 40.5°C). This lasts for around three to seven days. The fever itself is often accompanied by:

When the fever subsides, kids will usually develop a pink and slightly raised rash on their trunk (belly, back, and chest) within 12 or 24 hours of the fever ending. Often, this condition isn’t diagnosed until after the fever disappears and the rash appears. Within 24 hours of the fever ending, the child is no longer contagious and can return to school.

There is no real treatment for roseola. It’s a fairly common and mild condition that generally just runs its course. But if your child’s fever spikes, they may experience febrile seizures along with their high fever. Contact a pediatrician if you’re concerned.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD)

HFMD is a common viral illness that kids will often get by 5 years of age. It starts with a fever, sore throat, and loss of appetite. Then, a few days after the fever begins, sores appear around the mouth. These are painful, and usually begin in the back of the mouth. Around the same time, red spots may appear on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.

In more severe cases, the rash itself can spread to the limbs, buttocks, and genital area. So it isn’t always just the hands, feet, and mouth.

There’s no specific treatment for HFMD, and usually it will run its course in under a week. Parents might want to treat with over-the-counter pain medications and mouth sprays to relieve the pain caused by the sores. Always check with your pediatrician before administering anything new to your child.

Fifth disease

Some parents will refer to this rash as “slap face” because it leaves the cheeks rosy. Your child might look as though they’ve just been slapped. Fifth disease is another common childhood infection that’s usually mild in nature.

It begins with cold-like symptoms and a mild fever. Seven to 10 days later, the “slapped cheek” rash will appear. This rash is slightly raised with a lacelike pattern. It can then spread to the trunk and limbs and may come and go over different parts of the body.

For most children, fifth disease will develop and pass without issue. But it can be a concern for pregnant women passing it on to their developing baby, or for children with anemia.

If your child has anemia, or if their symptoms appear to be getting worse with time, make an appointment with your pediatrician.

Next steps

In most cases, a fever with a subsequent rash can be treated at home. But call your pediatrician if your child also has:

  • a sore throat
  • a fever over 102°F (38.8°C) for 24 hours or more
  • a fever that’s nearing 104°F (40°C)

It’s important to trust your gut. If you feel there’s any reason for concern, make an appointment. It never hurts to get the advice of your pediatrician about a rash after fever.