Recognizing Different Rashes in Children

Recognizing Different Rashes in Children

Rashes in children are very common. Most are not a big deal, but can be concerning to parents who notice a new rash, welt or bump on their child’s skin. But most rashes are harmless and go away on their own. Here is a list of some of the most common rashes pediatricians see.



Photo: Phyllis Buchanan

The dreadful chickenpox! Although this is becoming less frequent since the development of the chickenpox vaccine, this viral illness is something that many kids will still catch. This one is very contagious, and spreads rather quickly. It’s an itchy rash with red spots that turn into blisters filled with fluid. These blisters will burst (usually from itching), then eventually crust over forming scabs. Good news is, once you get the chicken pox you can’t get them again!



Photo: Urijamjari

This skin condition causes the skin to become itchy, red, dry and cracked. It commonly occurs behind the knees, or in the crease of the elbows. There are different types of eczema, the most common being atopic eczema. Some kids will outgrow this skin condition, while others will continue to see it into adulthood.


Photo: Încărcată de Siebrand

Photo: Încărcată de Siebrand

A bacteria causes this skin infection which leads red sores or blisters. Although it’s contagious, it’s not a serious condition. The blisters break open, ooze and form a yellow-brown crust, and that’s why we call these “honey-crusted lesions”. They occur most frequently around the nose or mouth, and can spread from close contact or sharing things (like toys or hand towels in the bathroom). This bacteria is treated with antibiotics, so if you think your child has this be sure to see a doctor for treatment.



Photo: Grook Da Oger

The name is deceiving, this condition is not caused by worms, and there are no worms of any kind associated with this infection. It’s actually caused by a fungus that causes a rash that is red, with scaly or blistery border that is shaped like a ring on the skin. It can show up anywhere on the body and can spread from direct contact with an infected person. See your doctor for this one, it’s treated with an antifungal cream.

Heat rash:

heat rash, prickly heat

Photo: James Heilman, MD

Also called prickly heat, this rash’s name says it all: it’s caused by the heat. Often it is simply from layering clothes or from hot and humid weather. It causes kids to sweat and creates a rash that creates small red bumps that look like pimples. Usually found on the head, neck and shoulders. This one clears up on its own.

Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease:

Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease

Photo: MidgleyDJ

This one sounds awful, but it is a common, mild viral illness. It usually begins with a fever, then progresses to painful mouth sores, and a non-itchy rash on the soles of the feet and palms of the hands. It spreads through coughing and sneezing. Usually kids have a general feeling of being sick, and don’t want to eat because of the painful mouth sores. No treatment here, this virus causes symptoms that last about 10 days.

Fifth Disease:

Fifth Disease, Slapped Cheek Fever

Photo: Andrew Kerr

Also called Slapped Cheek Fever, this is a common childhood viral infection that causes a bright red rash on both cheeks. It usually starts off with flu-like symptoms, a bright rash on the face and then on the body. It is spread through coughing and sneezing. This viral infection goes away on its own, with lots of rest, and fluids. If your child contracts Fifth Disease and you are currently pregnant, see a doctor.

Contact Dermatitis:

Contact Dermatitis

Photo: Nunyabb

Just as the name suggests, this is a rash caused by coming into contact with something. It can be from foods, soaps, plants, or jewelry. The rash appears about a day or two after skin contact and causes a mild redness, rash or bumps around where the contact was. The best treatment is to remove the causing factor, and the rash should disappear in about a week.



Photo: Cyron Ray Macey

This rash is raised, itchy and sometimes burning welts. This is a reaction triggered by a number of possible factors such as different foods, latex or medications. These welts can show up anywhere on the body and can last a little as a few minutes to days. Usually hives can be treated with over the counter antihistamines, but if hives are accompanied by swelling in the face or trouble breathing be sure to see a doctor.

Scarlet Fever:

scarlet fever

Photo: Badobadop

Think of strep throat, but with a rash. Kids usually have a sore throat, fever, headache, tummy aches, and swollen neck glands. After a few days of these symptoms they develop a rash. This rash looks like sandpaper texture. Scarlet Fever is very contagious, so be sure to see a doctor for antibiotics.

If your child has a rash, and you are unsure about it, get in touch with your family doctor to have a look!

– Dr. Christina Cesareo and Dr. G Paul Dempsey


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2 thoughts on “Recognizing Different Rashes in Children

Sheri Weese says:

Thank you very much for this article. I have int he last few months dealt with at least 3 of these rashes. it is good to have the pictures to compare so I know which rash it is in the future

    Quinte Pediatrics says:

    Hey Sheri!

    We’re so glad you find the article and images to be helpful! If you have any ideas for future resource articles, just let us know!

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