Warmer weather leads to so many adventures and curiosities to explore in childhood. Although these activities are healthy and exciting for children, they can also have some side effects such as skin rashes. As parents and caregivers, it can be hard to differentiate between a common rash and a rash that could be harmful or contagious. The following are a few examples of common childhood rashes:
Heat Rash, also known as ‘prickly heat’ or ‘miliaria’, is a rash characterized by red bumps developing in folded areas on the body that hold moisture and heat. Parents can prevent and treat a heat rash by washing and patting the area dry then allowing ventilation to the area. Diaper rash creams and other ointments are not helpful. Heat rash is not contagious but if the area worsens or does not improve, visit your primary care physician.
Eczema, also known as ‘atopic dermatitis,’ is a chronic skin condition characterized by patches of dry scaly skin. Typically, eczema is triggered more in winter months from dry heat, but many find it troublesome in the summer months too. These atypical outbreaks are thought to be due to pool chemicals, air conditioning or anything that could be irritating to the skin (including current mask wearing). Preventing outbreaks can include moisturizing and wearing loose, non-irritating clothing. This rash can become irritated and itchy, but it is advised to not scratch the outbreak areas. If your child has frequent outbreaks, you should consult your primary care physician to discuss other treatment options.
Impetigo is a bacterial skin infection that is common in hot weather months. The rash is characterized by bursting blisters leaving a yellow crust and are identified in two main categories indicating the location of the rash. ‘Bollus Impetigo’ involves the trunk area of the body and ‘Non-Bollus Impetigo’ involves the area under the nose and around the mouth. If your child develops this type of rash, contact your family doctor to treat this infection.
Plant rashes involving Poison Ivy/Sumac/Oak are due to a reaction to a sticky oil called ‘Urushiol’ after contact with a plant. The rash is characterized by irritated, itchy raised red bumps/blisters on the skin. Many do not even realize they have contacted the plant until the symptoms begin (which is why the rash sometime spreads so extensively). It is advised to avoid contact of the plants by helping to identify easily using the old saying ‘leaves of three, let them be’ to help children be more vigilant to avoid contact. Although the rash is extremely itchy, it is advised to not scratch the rash to prevent infection. Parents can also prevent a reaction by washing clothes and bathing immediately after being in potential contact situations (wooded areas, fields). Calamine lotions are available to sooth and reduce itchiness. Please consult your primary care physician if your rash worsens or comes in close contact with your eyes.
Insect bites/Bee stings can become an issue in the warm seasons. These bites/stings can be painful and leave itchy reddened areas on the skin. Many your body’s reactions are enough to combat the bite/sting and the redness and swelling in the area slowly diminishes. Occasionally, a dangerous reaction called ‘anaphylaxis’ can happen after bite or stings and can be life threatening. Children may describe symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction as: “My tongue feels funny”, “I feel itchy”, or “I feel hot”. Prevention by avoiding bug bites/stings as much as possible is always the best option but having an emergency plan is essential. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns about reactions to bites/stings.
There are entirely too many rashes to list here; there is an entire medical specialty dedicated to skin conditions. If your child ever has a questionable or worsening rash, please contact your family physician for a detailed assessment and treatment plan.
Angie Rosler, RN, is the Children with Medical Handicaps Nurse at the Meigs County Health Department.