Skin Rashes Types and Causes in Children

Children often have to visit their pediatrician because of skin rashes. Review pictures of common childhood skin rashes, including ringworm, chickenpox, eczema, measles, insect bites, diaper rashes, and yeast infections, to help you become familiar with common conditions that might be causing your child's rash.


Bug Bite

big mosquito bite

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No matter how careful you are about using insect repellents, it is likely that your child will occasionally get a bug bite. These bug bites can be scary for parents, though, since even a 'normal' reaction to a bug bite can include redness, swelling, and warm skin.

The majority of bug bites, whether by insects such as an ant, chigger, or wasp, aren't dangerous, unless your child is allergic to the insect. If your child is having an allergic reaction following a bug bite, he will likely have other symptoms in addition to the original bite.

Even most spider bites, which often resemble regular bug bites, aren't that dangerous unless caused by a black widow or brown recluse spider. Regular use of insect repellents can help your kids avoid many bug bites.

If your child's bug bite has become infected, then the redness, swelling, pain, fever, and any other symptoms will likely worsen a day or two after the bug bite. Any spreading redness or swelling on the first day of the bite is likely from the initial bug bite and not a sign of an infection.

Call your pediatrician if you think your child's bug bite is becoming infected.



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A child with chicken pox.

Joanne Green / Getty Images

The classic rash of chickenpox infection includes red papules (bumps), vesicles (the spots that look like little blisters), which then become crusted scabs. The rash is very itchy,

Chickenpox typically starts on a child's trunk and then spreads to the rest of their body, including their arms, legs, and head. Other symptoms of chickenpox typically include a prodrome of fever, malaise, headache, lack of appetite, and mild abdominal pain for 1 to 2 days.

Chickenpox is very contagious but can be prevented with a chickenpox vaccine. The current immunization schedule advises that kids get a chickenpox booster shot beginning when they are 4 years old, which should help to further decrease chickenpox infections.


Cold Sores

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Close up of child with a cold sore

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Unfortunately, some children get cold sores repeatedly, often on the same spot on their face or lip. They will often feel some pain, burning, or itching at the site of the cold sore before it appears.

Symptoms of cold sores include:

  • A group of vesicles (small, fluid-filled blisters) appearing on a red area of skin
  • Vesicles that quickly develop a crust on them

Although several medicines are available to treat cold sores in children, the main one that is available for children is acyclovir. This cold sore medicine must be used 4 to 5 times a day though and must be started as early as possible once the cold sore develops to be effective.

Not all experts agree that acyclovir is effective to treat cold sores in children. Untreated, cold sores usually go away in 7 to 10 days.



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eczema rash

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This skin rash picture demonstrates a classic case of eczema, which can be helpful in diagnosing your child with eczema. Eczema is often described as a very itchy rash, that is often red, rough or irritated, scaly, and can become oozing.

Eczema is usually diagnosed based on the appearance of the itchy rash in typical areas, including the forehead, cheeks, arms and legs in infants, and the creases or insides of the elbows, knees, and ankles in older children.

Although eczema can sometimes be hard to control, the basics of preventing eczema can help, including avoiding known triggers (such as harsh soaps, bubble baths, overheating and sweating, wool and polyester clothing). Use moisturizers liberally, especially every day and within three minutes of getting out of the bath or shower.

When your child's eczema gets worse or flares, the typical eczema treatments include using topical steroids and the newer non-steroidal medications like Elidel and Protopic.

For hard-to-control eczema, parents might try using an antihistamine to control itching, wet dressings or wet-to-dry dressings, and even antibiotics if your child has signs of a secondary skin infection.


Fifth Disease

fifth disease

DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

The "slapped cheeks" rash of fifth disease is a classic pediatric sign. Many parents dismiss the red cheeks that kids with fifth disease get and think it is simple flushing or is caused by sun or wind.

When red cheeks are followed by the even more classical pattern of getting a pink or red lacelike rash on their arms, the diagnosis is usually easy to make.


Lip Licker's Dermatitis

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irritation around a child's mouth.

Verywell / Vincent Iannelli

During the winter, when many kids have dry skin, they often also get red irritated skin around their mouths. In addition to those children with eczema, whose dry skin gets red and itchy, some kids simply get dry arms, legs, or hands from time to time.

As the skin around the mouth gets irritated, many children will begin to lick at it, which makes it even redder and irritated. This leads to the classic lip licker's dermatitis that many parents and pediatricians see in the winter.

Fortunately, this type of rash usually responds very well to moisturizers, such as Vaseline, Aquaphor Healing Ointment, and Eucerin Original Moisturizing Cream, etc. The trick is that you have to put the moisturizer around your child's lips very frequently, to help break the cycle of irritation and lip licking.

It is also important to note that even though the lip licker's dermatitis is found around a child's mouth, this rash is usually very different than the perioral dermatitis rash that is usually seen in young women and is rarer in children.



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measles rash on arm

DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

According to the CDC, "Measles is a highly contagious virus that can lead to complications." Fortunately, measles can be prevented by the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine. Measles remains a common disease in many countries of the world, including some developed countries in Europe and Asia.

Keep in mind that many viral infections cause a red blotchy rash. Measles is rare in the United States, especially as most kids are immunized. So unless your child has the pattern of measles symptoms, then you likely don't have to worry about measles every time your child gets a rash.


Molluscum Contagiosum

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Molluscum contagiosum rash on an arm

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The bumps of molluscum contagiosum, although often flesh-colored, can also be pink. They are typically small, dome-shaped, and can have a small indentation in their center. There may be irritation and redness in the surrounding skin.

Molluscum contagiosum is not really a wart, but many doctors call them "little warts." Spread by a virus, some children can get multiple clusters of molluscum on their body, while others just have a few that go away without treatment in a few months or years.

Although some doctors advise not treating molluscum since they do eventually go away, keep in mind that it can take months to years for them to resolve. And since they can sometimes spread very aggressively, many other doctors recommend treatments to try and help get rid of them.


Pityriasis Rosea

Pityriasis rosea rash

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Pityriasis rosea is often confused with ringworm because it typically begins with a large scaly herald patch that actually does look like ringworm. Although people don't always notice it, the herald patch of pityriasis rosea is typically found at the start of this skin rash.

The herald patch is then followed by the appearance of multiple smaller oval pink patches on the child's trunk, arms, and legs. These can be mildly itchy and can linger for several weeks or months, but the child will otherwise have no other symptoms.

Although alarming for some parents because of the extent of the rash, it is important to keep in mind that pityriasis rosea is thought to be harmless.

It is not known what causes pityriasis rosea, but it may be caused by a virus or a reaction to a previous viral infection. No treatment is usually required, except perhaps to control the itching if it becomes bothersome.


Poison Ivy

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The classic rash of poison ivy on a child's arm.

Verywell / Vincent Iannelli

It is usually not hard to identify a child with a poison ivy rash. A classic case of poison ivy might include a child with known exposure to poison ivy after a camping trip, hike in the woods, or day at the lake, who then develops a red, itchy rash all over his body a few days later.

After exposure to the leaves, stems, or roots of a poison ivy plant, children develop symptoms of poison ivy within 8 hours to a week or so, including:

  • An intensely itchy rash
  • Red bumps that often are in a straight line or streaks, from where the poison ivy plant had contact with your child's skin
  • Vesicles and blisters that are filled with fluid

Prevention depends on identifying poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac so that you can avoid them.



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The typical tinea corporis (ringworm) rash on the body looks like a red circular lesion with a scaly border and these areas may be itchy. It is a fungal infection.

An over-the-counter antifungal cream or ointment is the usual treatment for ringworm, except for tinea capitis, which is much more difficult to treat and often requires several months of an oral medication (like Griseofulvin).

Prescription topical creams, suspensions, and lotions are also available, like Loprox, Spectazole and Oxistat are also available.


Tinea Capitis

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Ringworm on a man's hairline

 bankrx / Getty Images

This picture shows the characteristic rash of a tinea capitis (scalp ringworm) infection along the hairline. Round, scaly patches with hair loss are also characteristic of tinea capitis.

Some children with tinea capitis may just have a scaly rash on their scalp without hair loss and others may have small black dots on their scalp. Keep in mind that there are many things that would cause a child to have a scaly scalp rash.


Yeast Diaper Rash

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candida napkin dermatitis

DermNet / CC BY-NC-ND

Yeast infections can commonly complicate other diaper rashes. You should suspect that a diaper rash might be caused by yeast (Candida) when your baby's regular diaper rash just isn't getting better with your usual diaper rash ointments and creams.

Another good sign of a yeast diaper rash is when a diaper rash becomes bright red, and is ​surrounded with red bumps (satellite lesions).

Treatments for yeast diaper rashes typically include the use of topical antifungal skin creams, such as Nystatin or Vusion.

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Article Sources
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  1. Rahmani F, Banan Khojasteh SM, Ebrahimi Bakhtavar H, Rahmani F, Shahsavari Nia K, Faridaalaee G. Poisonous Spiders: Bites, Symptoms, and Treatment; an Educational ReviewEmerg (Tehran). 2014;2(2):54–58.

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Chickenpox Vaccine: What You Need to Know (VIS). Updated November 2, 2009.

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. Cold Sores in Children: About the Herpes Simplex Virus. Updated July 11, 2017.

  4. Merck Manual Professional Version. Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema). Updated August 2019.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fifth Disease. Updated November 2, 2015.

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About Measles. Updated June 13, 2019.

  7. KidsHealth. Molluscum Contagiosum. Updated July 2016.

  8. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Pityriasis rosea: diagnosis and treatment.

  9. KidsHealth. Poison Ivy. Updated August 2019.

  10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Treatment for Ringworm. Updated October 11, 2019.

  11. Merck Manual Professional Version. Tinea Capitis. Updated October 2018.

  12. American Academy of Pediatrics. Thrush and Other Candida Infections. Updated November 21, 2015.