Pediatric rosacea commonly affects the skin on the face and causes symptoms such as flushing, dry and rough skin, and a stinging face. It can also affect the eyes.

Roughly 16 million people in the United States have rosacea, a chronic, inflammatory skin condition. Doctors often diagnose it in middle-aged women, but rosacea can also affect children in rare instances. The condition is also more common in people with lighter skin.

Read on how rosacea affects children, symptoms, causes and triggers, diagnosis, treatment and management of the condition.

Pediatric rosacea is not common, and doctors may underdiagnose the condition.

When rosacea affects the eyes — ocular rosacea — a child may get styes, and pinkeye, even with treatment, may continue to occur. These symptoms are often a warning sign of ocular rosacea. Ocular involvement tends to occur before any skin manifestations.

Having rosacea in the family may increase the likelihood of developing the disease. A National Rosacea Society survey of 2,000 people with rosacea found that close to 40% had a grandparent, parent, uncle or aunt, or sibling who also had the condition.

Prerosacea is a condition that affects people with a family history of rosacea. A person will experience extremely sensitive skin and a tendency to blush more frequently and for longer periods than is typical. These symptoms can also develop in children.

Symptoms of rosacea in children are similar to those in adults. They primarily affect the face and eyes.

A child may frequently have:

  • red or irritated eyes
  • styes or pinkeye
  • red, swollen eyelids that may itch and can look greasy or crusty
  • long lasting flushing on the face
  • burning or stinging face
  • facial swelling or edema
  • dry and rough skin

When People of Color develop rosacea, doctors often mistake the early signs, such as flushing, for another condition.

These symptoms may come and go, and a child may experience flare-ups.

Read on for causes and treating rosacea flare-ups.

Complications if left untreated

Other possible complications include:

  • swollen, red eyelids
  • sensitivity to light
  • gritty-feeling eyes
  • open sores on the eye
  • partial or total loss of vision

If doctors do not identify children with pediatric rosacea or prerosacea, they may receive treatment that worsens their condition. For example, a child with red bumps on their face due to rosacea could receive treatment for acne, which would further irritate the skin.

Identifying and avoiding conditions that cause flares is important in managing pediatric rosacea and learning how to live with it.

Children have sensitive skin, and rosacea makes it more sensitive. Although triggers for pediatric rosacea will vary with individuals, the following are common triggers:

  • very hot or very cold temperatures
  • eating spicy foods
  • sun
  • exercise
  • stress

It is not possible to diagnose rosacea with a medical test, and pediatric rosacea can be even more difficult to identify.

Instead, dermatologists, medical doctors specially trained in skin conditions, diagnose pediatric rosacea by:

  • taking a complete medical history of the child, including family history
  • conducting a thorough physical examination of the child’s skin and eyes
  • reviewing any medications the child may use
  • checking for acne, skin infections, and allergic skin infections
  • ordering medical tests as needed to rule out other conditions, such as lupus

Research has shown that children with pediatric rosacea who have ocular symptoms can experience delays in receiving an accurate diagnosis.

Just as there is not one singular test for rosacea, there is not one singular treatment plan for the disease. However, doctors strive to:

  • improve the appearance of the skin
  • ease discomfort
  • prevent the condition from getting worse

Treatment options focus on specific symptoms:

  • acne-like breakouts: Doctors treat these sorts of breakouts with:
  • redness: Green-tinted makeup or prescription creams to temporarily relieve redness and longer-term improvement treatments include:
    • laser or light therapy
    • sun protection
    • gentle skin care
    • trigger management
  • eye problems: early-stage eye problems may remedy with:
    • warm compresses
    • gentle cleaning
    • eye drops
    • eye medication

The treatment plan for each person with pediatric rosacea will depend on their symptoms and severity.

Most people with pediatric rosacea will experience improvement in the appearance of their skin. Doctors may adjust treatments as needed, such as during flare-ups.

With treatment, parents and caregivers can ensure a child’s rosacea is under control within a few weeks to months. Managing the disease helps to prevent it from progressing.

Other management techniques include adding the following activities to regular routines:

  • using only fragrance-free products
  • wearing broad-spectrum, water-resistant 30 SPF or higher sunscreen containing titanium or zinc oxide every day
  • avoiding products that contain:
    • menthol
    • camphor
    • sodium lauryl sulfate
  • avoiding using rough skin care tools on the skin, such as:
    • loofahs
    • sponges
    • brushes

Doctors often diagnose rosacea in middle-aged women, but it can also affect children in some cases.

Symptoms of rosacea in children are similar to those in adults and primarily affect the face and eyes. Recurring pink eye and styes may be signs of pediatric rosacea.

Treatment with topical and oral medications and learning to identify and avoid triggers can help a parent or caregiver manage their child’s rosacea.