Many conditions can cause rashes on an infant’s or child’s chest. These include fungal, bacterial, and viral infections, such as chickenpox, or allergic reactions, such as hives.

Children’s rashes and other skin concerns are very common.

Most rashes are self-limiting and do not require treatment, while others indicate something more serious and potentially life threatening.

This article explores conditions that cause rashes on a child’s chest, symptoms, causes, and treatments.

Nearly half of full-term infants develop erythema toxicum neonatorum (ETN) during the first week of life. On lighter skin tones, the condition appears as firm yellow to white papules or pustules. It may be harder to detect on darker skin tones.

Doctors more often see transient neonatal pustulosis, a variant of ETN, in babies with darker skin tones.

The lesions typically begin on the cheeks and rapidly spread to the rest of the face, chest, trunk, and limbs.

ETN and transient neonatal pustulosisis are harmless conditions. The lesions heal without medical intervention. A parent or caregiver can discuss any concerns with a doctor to determine whether this is the cause of the rash.

Ringworm is a common and highly infectious fungal skin infection. It causes raised, itchy, circular rashes with slightly raised, scaly edges. On lighter skin tones, the rash is typically red. The rash’s color may be less obvious on darker skin tones.

Ringworm can occur anywhere in the body, including the torso (tinea corporis). It can also appear on the feet, scalp, nails, or groin area.


Doctors treat ringworm with antifungal medications. A parent or caregiver must apply an ointment or cream on the affected area twice daily for 2–4 weeks.

If the ringworm rash is widespread, a doctor may prescribe antifungal medications.

Fifth disease is a viral infection caused by parvovirus B19. Doctors also refer to it as erythema infectiosum or “slapped cheek syndrome.”

It occurs mainly in young children of school age. A child may feel unwell for a few days before the rash develops and have the following symptoms:

After these symptoms improve, a rash may appear on one or both cheeks, followed by spotty, raised rashes on the chest, arms, and legs. These rashes may be itchy and fade within 2 weeks.

The rash is typically bright red on lighter skin tones. The redness may not be as clear on darker skin tones.


Fifth disease does not require treatment and gets better on its own.

Below are some things that can help ease symptoms:

  • resting
  • drinking plenty of fluids
  • taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) for fever
  • applying moisturizer to relieve any itch

Chickenpox is a highly contagious viral disease. It causes itchy, blister-like rashes to appear on the chest, back, and face before spreading on the body.

Other symptoms may appear 1 to 2 days before the rash. These include:

  • fever
  • tiredness
  • headache
  • loss of appetite

Getting the chickenpox vaccine is a safe and effective way to prevent the disease.


There is no specific treatment for chickenpox. Taking a cool bath with baking soda or colloidal oatmeal can help relieve itchiness. Applying calamine lotion can also help.

A child can also take acetaminophen and other non-aspirin medications for fever.

Roseola infantum, or sixth disease, is another viral infection caused by the human herpesvirus 6. It mainly affects young children. The majority of cases (90%) are in children younger than 2 years.

Initial symptoms include high fever, up to 104°F (40°C), for 3–5 days, followed by raised spotty rashes that begin on the trunk. It may spread to the neck, face, and limbs.


There is no specific treatment for roseola infantum. The majority of cases are mild and go away on their own. The rash is not itchy and does not need medications to treat it.

Resting, drinking plenty of fluids, and taking fever medications, such as acetaminophen, can help bring relief.

There is currently no vaccination or antiviral therapy for the virus. Adequate handwashing is important to prevent the spread of the disease.

Other viral infections

Other viral infections that can cause chest rashes include:

  • Measles and rubella: Measles and rubella rashes begin on the face and spread to the rest of the body. However, due to vaccination, measles and rubella are uncommon today.
  • Molluscum contagiosum: Molluscum contagiosum causes small, pearly bumps with a white dimple at the center. It is fairly common and can last for months to years.

Impetigo is a highly infectious infection caused by staph or strep bacteria.

Nonbullous impetigo presents as plaques with a honey-colored crust near the nose and mouth. Bullous impetigo causes fluid-filled blisters in the arms, legs, and trunk (between the waist and neck).

On lighter skin tones, the rash and plaques may be red. The redness may be less obvious on darker skin. A parent or caregiver can discuss the symptoms with a doctor to receive a suitable diagnosis and treatment.


Treatment includes topical or oral antibiotics, depending on the severity of the condition.

Antibiotics decrease the duration of illness and the spread of lesions.

Parents and caregivers can prevent transmission to others and the spread of lesions by ensuring their child practices good personal hygiene and stays home during an active outbreak.

Hives, or urticaria, are raised itchy bumps or welts. On lighter skin, the bumps or welts are often pinkish-red. The redness may be more subtle or not appear on black skin.

The rashes can appear anywhere on the body but commonly occur on the chest, back, and stomach. They are often temporary and resolve within 24 hours without leaving a scar.

Hives have many triggers, including:

  • stress
  • viral infections
  • allergens
  • medications
  • food


Typically, hives disappear once the person avoids or removes the trigger.

Antihistamines are the primary treatment for hives.

Other options a doctor may recommend include:

  • short-term use of oral steroids
  • antiseptic creams to prevent a secondary infection
  • soothing creams to reduce itchiness
  • injectable drugs, such as omalizumab (Xolair)

If there are symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as swelling of the lips, face, or tongue, a doctor may prescribe an epinephrine autoinjector to carry for use in emergencies.

Learn more about hives treatments.

Scarlet fever is an infectious disease caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria. Doctors associate it with bacterial pharyngitis. It often has the following symptoms:

The rash appears 2–3 days after the infection and presents as small, raised, blanching rashes that feel like sandpaper. The rashes begin in the trunk, armpit, and groin, and then spread to the limbs.

It may be harder to see a change in color on darker skin than on lighter skin, but the rash and raised bumps are still visible.


Doctors treat scarlet fever with antibiotics, typically amoxicillin or penicillin.

Heat rash appears as tiny bumps, pimples, or blisters. On darker skin, the blisters may be gray or white. On lighter skin, they may be red. Heat rash is more common in infants and children.

Blocked sweat glands and ducts cause heat rash. Doctors also refer to heat rash as prickly heat, sweat rash, and miliaria.


Heat rash is not a serious condition and does not need treatment. Its main management involves decreasing sweating. Wearing breathable clothes and providing a cooler environment can help achieve this.

Parents can call their child’s pediatrician or seek immediate medical help if they notice any of the following accompanying the rashes:

  • blistering or skin that peels off in sheets (sloughing)
  • diarrhea and abdominal pain
  • fever with extreme irritability or inconsolability
  • purple or blood-colored dots or pinpoint spots
  • hives with trouble breathing
  • fever with swelling of the mouth, lips, or tongue

These symptoms may also indicate serious skin conditions, such as:

Rashes on a child’s chest can have many causes, ranging from viral and bacterial infections to allergic reactions.

Most of the time, these rashes are mild and go away on their own. In some cases, a doctor may prescribe antibiotics or anti-itch creams.

However, if a child has a fever with extreme irritability or difficulty breathing, caregivers should consult a doctor immediately. These symptoms can indicate health conditions requiring urgent care.