Many different types of rashes can affect children. A child can develop dermatitis or develop a rash due to a virus, bacteria, or fungus. Although many rashes clear up quickly with home care, some require longer-term treatment or medication.
Some rashes form quickly, while others take several days to appear fully.
This article provides an overview of the most common rashes in children, including symptoms, causes, and treatments.
While most rashes are not medical emergencies, a parent or caregiver should take a child to the emergency room if they notice a rash that could indicate meningitis.
Meningitis refers to inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. It usually develops due to a viral or bacterial infection. It can affect anyone but most commonly occurs in:
- young children
- young adults
A person may notice a rash that looks like pinpricks. These spread quickly and turn into purple blotches.
On light skin, the pinpricks are red. On Skin of Color, the rash can be less noticeable. A person can check paler areas of skin for the rash, such as:
- the palms of the hands
- the soles of the feet
- the roof of the mouth
- the stomach
- whites of the eyes
- inside of the eyelids
The rash will not disappear if a person presses a glass against the skin.
Many of these rashes are not typically a cause for concern, and a parent or caregiver can treat these rashes at home. However, if symptoms do not resolve, they should speak with a healthcare professional.
Teething typically starts between 4 and 7 months of age.
Teething can cause the baby to drool, and the excess saliva can irritate the skin around the mouth, cheeks, chin, neck, or chest. This causes tiny, raised, inflamed bumps to develop.
Wetness and friction from a diaper can cause diaper rash to develop on or around a baby’s buttocks. This is a rash that a person can typically treat with home care.
Symptoms of diaper rash include:
- raw patches on the buttocks in the diaper area
- skin that looks sore or is warm to the touch
- scaly, dry skin
- fussing or discomfort
- pimples or blisters on the buttocks
According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, experts do not fully understand the cause of cradle cap.
Around the scalp and face, an infant will develop patches of yellow or white greasy scales. These can crust and fall off.
It can sometimes affect the diaper area and appear as small, dry flakes of skin.
The scales look similar on all skin tones. However, on darker skin, the skin underneath the scales may appear darker than the surrounding skin. On lighter skin, the skin will appear red or pink.
Eczema is a common condition in children. Caused by an overreaction of the immune system, it results in dry, itchy patches of skin.
Symptoms of eczema include:
- itchy, dry skin
- inflamed or discolored skin
- scaly patches
- oozing or crusting
Contact dermatitis is a rash caused by contact with an irritant or allergen. Common causes include:
- soaps and detergents
- lotions and perfumes
- poison oak, ivy, and sumac
Symptoms may vary among children but commonly include:
- itchy skin
- painful skin
- dry, cracked, peeling skin
- oozing, crusting, or draining
Treatment for contact dermatitis in children can depend on their symptoms, age, overall health, and the severity of the condition.
Heat rash develops as a result of inflammation and blockage of the sweat ducts.
It can cause:
- small, raised spots
- prickly or itchy sensations
- mild swelling
A parent or caregiver can treat heat rash at home.
Although a parent or caregiver can manage the symptoms of the following viral infections at home, they should speak with a healthcare professional for advice.
Vaccines can prevent some viral rashes, such as measles, rubella, and chicken pox. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide a
Some of these conditions, including measles,
According to the
It produces a rash with itchy, fluid-filled blisters on any body part. The blisters may scab after about a week.
Chickenpox is transmissible to someone who has never had the virus. Parents and caregivers should keep the child away from other children during the illness. The transmissible period ends when all the rash blisters have scabbed.
Chickenpox typically lasts between
Parvovirus B19 causes the rash called fifth disease, or erythema infectiosum.
The itchy rash, also called slapped cheek rash, appears on the face. A second rash may develop on the torso, arms, legs, or buttocks.
It usually disappears in
Roseola infantum, sometimes called sixth disease, results from infection with human herpesvirus 6 or 7 (HHV-6 or HHV-7).
A 2022 overview of research notes that
- a high fever usually greater than 104°F (40°C), which lasts 3–5 days
- an inflamed, raised rash that typically begins on the torso as the fever disappears
- a pale halo around the spots
The rash can spread to the neck, face, arm, and legs. It does not usually itch and begins to disappear after about 2 days.
Measles typically begins with cold-like symptoms and white spots that develop in the mouth.
A spotty rash develops on the head or neck and spreads over the body. The rash may be slightly raised but is not usually itchy. Spots may form together into patches of rash.
Rubella is a viral condition that produces
In children, certain symptoms usually develop before the rash, including:
- swollen glands
- cough, runny nose
- aching joints
- redness or swelling of the white part of the eye
The rash appears as a speckling on the skin.
A poxvirus causes molluscum contagiosum, which results in small, raised bumps on the skin. The bumps appear flesh-colored, are smooth and firm, and have a depressed dimple in the center. The dimple may not always be present.
Mollusca lesions may develop anywhere on the body and become itchy, sore, and swollen. The condition usually resolves in
Hand, foot, and mouth disease
Hand, foot, and mouth disease is common in children
The rash can develop on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. It can also develop on the buttocks, arms, and legs.
The rash appears as flat or slightly raised spots. Blisters can also develop.
A doctor can treat the following rashes using antibiotics, and a parent or caregiver and manage symptoms at home.
The bacteria group A Streptococcus causes scarlet fever. It most commonly develops in children
Symptoms include a sore throat, fever, and a rash that feels like sandpaper.
Two types of bacteria cause impetigo — group A Streptococcus and Staphylococcus aureus. It usually takes about
Impetigo can cause itchy sores alongside yellow scabs that develop over the rash area. The rash heals without leaving a scar.
The sores develop:
- around the nose
- around the mouth
- on the arms
- on the legs
Children can develop a fungal rash known as ringworm. The name stems from the ring-shaped pattern of the rash.
Ringworm rashes appear on the scalp or body as round or oval patches of inflamed skin that are smooth in the center. The edges appear scaly.
Most rashes are not emergencies.
A parent or caregiver should contact a doctor if:
- the rash is severe
- the rash does not go away
- the child develops other symptoms alongside the rash
Children develop many types of rashes. Many of them are not medical emergencies, and home treatment is safe to start.
However, a parent or caregiver should contact a doctor if other symptoms are present. If the rash covers the body or a pattern of purplish paint splatters appear, it is important to seek emergency care.