Common Skin Conditions in Children


Chickenpox is not as common today, thanks to a developed vaccine recommended for children and adults who had never had the virus, in the 1990's. Chickenpox appears as an itchy rash of red spots or blisters and is very contagious.  These spots go through stages where they blister, burst, dry and crust over. Although usually short-lived and mild, it can also be very serious.

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is a rash caused by a reaction to one of many things such as foods, soaps or plants like poison ivy, sumac or oak. Contact dermatitis may be mild with a rash of small red bumps, or severe causing swelling, redness and larger blisters. It can disappear in a week or two or be treated with an anti-inflammatory cream like hydrocortisone.

Cradle cap

Cradle cap can often be found on a baby’s scalp. It looks like oily or flaky yellowish or brown scaling or crusting patches and should clear up on its own. Harmless, mild shampoos can help loosen or remove the scales. Doctors refer to it as infantile seborrheic dermatitis.


Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a genetic non-contagious skin condition that causes inflamed, red, dry and itchy skin. It usually presents in early childhood and tends to localize to the arm creases opposite the elbow, on the leg opposite the knee, and in other skin creases. The initial cause is unknown. Kids who have allergies or asthma can be prone to eczema. It is chronic, but treatable with medications and self-care, and often becomes milder or disappear with age.

Fifth disease

Fifth disease is an illness, starting with flu-like symptoms, that causes a facial rash. The rash appears bright red as if the cheeks have been slapped. A body rash can follow as well as fatigue, itching, fever, sore throat and upset stomach. It is especially common in kids between the ages of 5 and 15 and is contagious spread by sneezing and coughing. It is most contagious during the week before the rash appears. It usually clears up on its own within days or weeks. Call a doctor, but pain relievers, fluids and rest are recommended for treatment.


Hand-foot-mouth disease (a scary name also called coxsackie) is a common childhood illness that starts with a fever and is followed by painful mouth sores and a rash on the hands and feet and sometimes the buttocks and legs. It is very contagious and is spread by direct contact with mucus or saliva. This disease can sometimes affect adults as well. It is not considered serious and usually lasts a few days or a week clearing up on its own.

Also referred to as prickly heat, heat rash appears as small red or pink pimples. It is blamed on blocked sweat ducts and usually appears on babies, when they are dressed too warmly or are in very hot weather.


Hives are a common skin reaction which produce red or white bumps that can mildly or intensely itch. The welts vary in size and appear and fade repeatedly as the reaction runs its course, which can last minutes to days. Hives can be triggered by many things including medicines, foods and food additives, heat, cold and strep throat. They can last minutes or days. Seek medical attention immediately if they come with breathing trouble or swelling in the face.


Impetigo is caused by bacteria and creates sores or blisters all over the body, but mainly around the mouth and nose. The sores can break open, ooze and then develop a yellow-brown crust. Scratching can spread it to other parts of the body. It can be spread through close contact and is very contagious. Impetigo can be treated with antibiotics.


Ringworm is caused by a fungus and starts as a red, scaly patch or bump on the skin. It eventually looks like a red ring. (Ringworm is not caused by worms.) It is contagious passing on by skin contact with a person or an animal. It can be treated with antifungal creams.


Roseola, also called sixth disease, is a common, mild viral infection that is most common in children under the age of 2. It can start with a cold and/or high fever and is followed by a rash of small, pink, flat or slightly raised bumps. Bed rest and fluids treat it best and, if needed, medication to reduce fever.

Scarlet fever

Scarlet fever is a rash caused by strep infections such as strep throat. The rash can appear on the face, neck, trunk, arms and legs. It is rare and contagious, and is most often treated with oral antibiotics.


Warts are small tumors of the skin, commonly appearing on fingers or hands, which are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Common warts are small, grainy skin growths that can be transmitted through touch. They often go away on their own or can be treated with topical medications, but stubborn ones may need medical intervention.