Skin Rash in Children – Part 1

‘Oh no, what is this?’ you may ask. Yesterday your child’s skin was clear and clean, and today there is this mystery rash. Wondering about that rash or bump on the skin of your child?

Do not despair – Childhood skin rashes are common and most are not a big deal!

A rash is simply a reaction of skin. In children, it can be triggered by a gamut of things, like an infection, allergic reaction and drug reaction. Numerous different agents can cause identical rashes, as the skin has limited number of potential responses.

Healthy and hale skin of your child is a barricade between the inside of the body and the adverse outside environment. A rash means some sort of change has affected the body and skin of your kid.
In children, a rash is mostly a minor skin problem or just a part of illness that will heal on its own. Moreover, a rash may be caused if the body comes in contact with a harmful substance/chemical, such as poison ivy (known as contact dermatitis) or by other more serious illnesses like scarlet fever or measles.

Generalized skin rashes, which appear over the whole body are caused by viruses and are common in infants and young children as compared to adults. Most skin rashes in children that are caused by viruses (cold, diarrhea or cough) do not harm children and fade away over time without any treatment. Some childhood rashes; however, have serious or even life-threatening causes. As parents, you must know well about these rashes. Many rashes may look somewhat identical, making it tough for parents to know the exact diagnosis. When you have a concern, see the pediatrician immediately.

In this article, we will be focusing on only two kinds of rashes – bacterial and virus, though there are many others like fungus & parasite rashes, life-threatening rashes and rashes in newborn ( that we will discuss in part 2 of the article).

Read on to know the bacterial and viral rashes in Children

Many childhood ailments are caused due to viruses or bacteria and include a rash of some sort. As additional vaccines have become available, these ailments have become less of threat to your kid’s long-term health. However, a rash of any kind must be taken seriously and it may entail a visit to physician office for evaluation. Examples of viral rashes include various common childhood illnesses.

Scarlet Fever (or Scarlatina)


Scarlet fever is a strep throat with a rash. The throat infection is instigated by a bacteria group called Streptococcus pyogenes. It is commonly seen in school-going children, especially in early spring and winters; however, it can occur in people of any age and in any weather. Additionally, strep infection may occur around the anus or in the vaginal area.

The bacterial skin rash in children is not contagious or serious, but serious complications may develop from the underlying infection – ‘strep infection’. The most troublesome of these is rheumatic fever, a serious ailment that can harm the heart valves and cause chronic heart-disorders.


  • The symptoms in children start acutely with sore throat, moderate temperature (101F -103F), upset stomach, swollen glands (lymph nodes) in the neck or headache
  • Just after 2-3 days of the above-said symptoms, the kid develops a rash on the body; which is red and has sandpaper like roughness. The classic medical description exhibits a correct picture – “skin with goose bumps or sunburn.” The rash generally spares the soles and palms.
  • The cheeks may look extremely flushed with a lean ring of normal skin around the mouth
  • Symptoms of vaginal strep infection are those of mild redness accompanied by itching and sometimes pain with passing urine or stool


  • Take your child to the pediatrician immediately if you even has a little doubt that he/she may be suffering from scarlet fever or strep throat
  • Strep throat can be treated with antibiotics
  • The child will need a full-course of antibiotics, which must be finished even if your kid is hale and hearty before completion



Impetigo is a superficial skin infection triggered by staphylococcal or strep throat bacterium. It is usually found around the nose and mouth, but can develop anywhere. The skin rash is more common in the warmer months. Moreover, it can occur as a secondary infection in skin that may be damaged, e.g. due to poison ivy, abrasions, insect bites and eczema.


  • Impetigo develops as small superficial blisters that rupture, leaving open, red patches of skin
  • The rash can be quite itchy
  • Impetigo, skin rash children, can be very contagious. A child can spread the infection to other parts of the body by scratching himself and touching other body parts without washing the hands, as well as to other people by contact ( non respiratory)
  • Often a honey-colored crust grow over the rash
  • Impetigo is seldom a serious ailment, but is usually a treated to cure the patient, alleviate the risk of complications, and reduce the likelihood of transmission to others


  • This infection of skin is easily treated with oral and topical antibiotics
  • If itching is intense, your child’s physician may recommend anti-itch medications
  • Your child is generally no longer contagious after one to two days of therapy. The rash starts to heal in 3-4 days.
  • If the rash does not exhibit signs of healing by the 3rd day of treatment, you kid needs to be seen by a physician

Viral Skin Rashes

Measles (Hard or Regular Measles)


Virus called Paramyxovirus causes measles. A safe and effectual vaccine is available to avert the ailment, but outbreaks in people who are not fully vaccinated still happen.


  • Initial symptoms of the skin rash in children usually appear 10-12 days after exposure to this gigantically contagious virus
  • The child will look sick, with reduced appetite and activity level
  • The disease generally begins with eye redness without discharge, moderate fever (102 F – 103F) and nasal congestion and cough
  • On the 3rd or 4th day of illness, high fever (104F -105F) occurs and child will develop a brown-colored rash on the face, along the hairline and behind the ears. The rash may then spread down the body to feet and thighs. After around a week, the rash heals in the similar pattern as it developed


  • No medications are available to treat measles
  • Children suffering from measles look quite miserable and ill; however, the illness generally becomes better without lasting ill-effects
  • You can prevent your kids from getting measles by ensuring they receive the recommended vaccines
  • The measles vaccines are a vital part of MMR (mumps, measles and rubella) vaccine given to children who are 12 to 15 months old and repeated when the child become s 4-6 years old
  • Earlier, many parents would choose to skip this vaccination due to the concerns of association between the vaccines and autism in children. Multiple international researches and studies have shown that the vaccination is safe and certainly has no association with autism or any other type of behavioral abnormality. The safety issues were focused on the vaccine preservative called thimerosal, which consists of mercury. The studies on thimerosal have shown it to be completely safe, and its utilization is still endorsed by the WHO (World Health Organization).
  • However, in the US, the DTaP and MMR vaccinations have been thimerosal-free since 1995.

Chickenpox (Varicella)


A virus known as varicella –zoster activates this highly contagious disease; however, the disease is not harmful to most kids. The symptoms usually last 2-weeks and can make the child very-very uncomfortable. Chickenpox can be a serious infection in children with weak immune systems. A safe and very effective vaccine is now available for children aged 1 year or older to avert chickenpox. The symptoms usually show up 10-21 days after exposure to virus.


  • The earliest symptoms of this skin rash in children are sore throat, feeling tired and fever. This is followed, usually within a day by appearance of classic, immensely itchy rash that starts on the head and torso and then spreads outward to the legs and arms
  • The total time-period of the rash is 7-10 days
  • Children with chickenpox will have new outbreaks of new lesions as the older crusted lesions are resolving. They characteristically will have both older and new lesions present at the same time
  • The rash starts as an area of redness with a minor, superficial blister in the middle. After 1-2 days, the blister ruptures and the lesion will develop a crusty scab that will fall off in 2-3 days. The complete evolution takes 4-5 days


  • The virus is spread fundamentally from oral and nasal secretions of the child, but the rash itself is contagious as well. The child remains contagious and cannot go to daycare or school till the last lesion to develop has completely crusted over
  • The chickenpox vaccine named “varicella vaccine” was added to the United States childhood immunizations in the year 1995. It is provided in two-dosages; the first dose is given at 12-15 months of age and the second dose is recommended between 4 and 6 years of age. The vaccination is both effective and safe. The vaccine may cause mild redness and tenderness at the site for a few days. While the vaccination protects most children, some children (approx 3%) can develop a mild case of chickenpox usually with very few lesions and without fever
  • In 2005, a new and advanced combined vaccination against chickenpox, mumps, measles and rubella was introduced to world. It has proved to work well as well as the separate chickenpox and MMR vaccines. Owing to the higher frequency of febrile seizures with the MMR versus separately administered Varicella and MMR vaccines, children less than 2 years of age get a split vaccine protocol. The febrile seizure side-effects has not shown up in children over 2 years of age
  • Never give aspirin to children with chickenpox. A fatal disease known as Reye syndrome has been linked with children taking aspirin.

Fifth Disease


Fifth disease, also called as slapped cheeks or erythema infectiosum disease is triggered by a virus “parvovirus B19”. The infection tends to develop more commonly in winters and early spring, but can occur year-round. Infection tends to develop after an incubation period of 4-14 days.


  • Fifth disease usually starts as a cold –nasal congestion with mild headache, low-grade fever, cough and sore throat. The skin rash in children triggered by Fifth Disease appears right away after the symptoms of viral illness are over and the kid is no longer contagious
  • The earliest known symptom of the disease is bright red cheeks, inspiring the name “slapped cheeks disease.”
  • Parvovirus B19 infection is stringently human-to-human in nature. While there are animal parvovirus ailments, they do not affect humans. Most people with a parvovirus B19 infection will show no symptoms. Only one out of four will develop fifth disease. The majority of infections occur during childhood and the infection affects immunity
  • Occasionally, the kid may have sore joints with the rash. Adults who contact Parvovirus B-19 infection are more relatively to report soreness of joints of elbows, hands and knees
  • Once the rash develops, the child is not any longer contagious


  • While there is no particular therapy other than comfort measures, numerous points are significant
  • The disease is not serious in otherwise healthy children, but can cause a serious problem to children with leukemia, HIV/Aids and cell anemia


As parents, you must learn to recognize the skin rashes in children and check it with the pediatrician immediately to know the exact cause.