Babies and young children have incredibly sensitive skin. As they get older and it’s exposed to different toxins and products, it usually starts to toughen up, and only adults with skin conditions suffer. But, in childhood, skin conditions and complaints are exceedingly common. Some of these are caused by irritants and easily avoided or treated; others are a symptom of other childhood diseases such as chickenpox. While it’s important to know the differences and what to look for, so you are able to offer your children the treatment they need or seek help when it’s required it’s also important not to panic at the first sign of inflamed skin. Rashes are often nature’s way of warning that there is something wrong. Young children can’t always express discomfort or accurately explain their symptoms; a rash is the bodies way of letting parents know that something isn’t right. It’s often nothing to worry about. Let’s take a look at some of the more common childhood skin conditions and what you can do to help.
The first skin issue parents face often comes within the first few days or weeks after the birth. Often a newborn has peeling skin. This can be alarming, but it’s totally normal. Remember, your baby has been surrounded by protective waters in your womb for months. It’s grown, and its skin has developed to suit these conditions.
After birth, your baby needs a tougher, harder skin, and dry air can be a bit of a shock. Babies often shed a layer of skin that they no longer need. Allowing an outer layer more suited to their new world to replace it. You might notice a few flakes, large peeling patches or nothing at all. Keep your baby wrapped up, keep baths short and use a gentle baby safe cleanser and your baby shouldn’t feel any discomfort.
Red, Yellow and White Spots in Newborns
As well as peeling skin, newborns often have small red, yellow and white spots. Often on their faces, around their cheeks and nose but also on their upper arms and thighs. This is erythema toxicum and is another completely normal skin condition is newborn babies, often appearing in the first few days after birth and clearing up on its own in a few days or weeks. It’s thought to be caused by the activation of your child’s immune system and doesn’t cause them any harm or discomfort.
Eczema is incredibly common in babies and young children, and symptoms can range from a little redness around creases and fat rolls to cracked, open and infected skin. The good news is that eczema often clears up on its own as your child gets older. But, it can be painful, sore and itchy until then.
If the eczema is mild, washing in just water and using an emollient moisturizer that you can buy from your local store could be enough to keep the symptoms under control. Loose clothing, using a non-bio washing powder and avoiding certain foods will also help. Keep a food diary to try and spot anything that triggers a breakout.
If the skin is open and infected or covers a large area of your child’s body, take these steps, but you will also need to see your doctor who may prescribe a steroid cream. Eczema isn’t serious or harmful long-term, but severe symptoms won’t clear up on their own and could cause a lot of pain so see your doctor as soon as you can.
Slapped Cheek Syndrome
Slapped cheek is very common and often accompanies a cold and cough. It gets its name because it looks like your child has slapped cheeks. They’ll be red and blotchy like the blood has risen to the surface of the skin after a slap.
This usually clears up on its own within a week or so when the cold clears. It doesn’t require treatment but keep your child cool and hydrated and offer infant paracetamol to bring down their temperature and keep them comfortable.
Hand Foot and Mouth Disease
Hand, foot and mouth disease is very common in early childhood. Especially in children who spend time with other children at playgroups or nursery. The main symptoms are blister-like spots on the hands and feet and ulcers in the mouth. Some of these blisters will be tiny; others can grow quite large. Your child may have cold like symptoms, and the blisters can be painful. Offer plenty of fluids if they find eating painful and let them rest until the blisters clear up. This can take around a week.
Hand foot and mouth isn’t usually harmful, but it can be very contagious, and adults may find the symptoms more pronounced. So, keep your child home until the blisters have dried up.
Hives are raised red or pink spots; they may even be flesh colored. They itch, and the skin can become sore from scratching. Hives are often a result of a sting or an allergy. If it’s a sting, keep the skin cool with a cold compress and try to stop scratching.
If the rash keeps returning, and there’s no reason to think it’s from a sting, then your child may have an allergy. See your doctor for tests, try changing your washing powder and soaps and monitor what they are eating and drinking to try to spot a pattern.
Chickenpox is another very common childhood disease. Children get itchy red blisters and cold-like symptoms. These blisters may cover their whole body, cluster in specific areas or be limited in their spread. They might have 10; they might have hundreds. If burst by scratching the blisters can become painful and leave scarring.
Try to prevent scratching by using a chamomile gel or cream, keeping them cool and adding oats to their bath. Treat any fever with infant paracetamol, but never ibuprofen which can be dangerous with chicken pox. Ask your pharmacist about an infant anti-histamine which could also reduce itching.
Children usually recover within ten days, but the disease is contagious until the spots have scabbed over and stopped itching. It can also be dangerous for pregnant women and the elderly, so it’s important to keep your child home until they are no longer contagious.
Heat rash is common in children because they are much more sensitive to heat than adults. After long exposure to heat, their skin can become red, swollen and itchy, or they might just have a few red spots on their trunk and around joints. To prevent this, keep them out of direct sunlight, dress them in loose clothing and keep them cool as much as possible. To reduce the symptoms, use a cold compress to cool the skin and let them wear just a nappy at home when it’s very hot.
Scarlet fever was once very popular but is now a much rarer condition. It often starts with a red and swollen tongue, a sore throat and a headache. A bright red rash, which is rough to touch often spreads over the whole body, it can look a little like sunburn.
Scarlet fever can make your child feel very ill, and cause complications. So, if you suspect that it’s the cause of their rash see your doctor who may prescribe antibiotics.
Molluscum contagiosum can be a little alarming because it’s quite different from any other rash. The spots are red, small and raised. But unlike blisters from chicken pox or hand foot and mouth disease, they are firm to touch. This is a contagious virus which can spread across the whole body. But, the spots are usually fairly low in number, aren’t painful and don’t come with any other symptoms, so, doctors usually allow it to run its course without treatment.
While this condition is contagious, it is rarely passed on so don’t worry about keeping your child at home unless they are unwell or in pain.
If you are worried about the spots from molluscum contagiosum, see your doctor to rule out any other causes and if the spots become irritated, try to dress your baby in loose clothing and use delicate soaps and washing powder.
Diaper rash is perhaps one of the most common skin conditions in babies. Wearing a diaper all of the time can mean that the skin can’t breathe. When the diaper is wet or soiled, it can irritate the skin. This can then become worse with further diaper wear. But, children are affected very differently. Some will never have diaper rash; others will break out in a red and painful rash as soon as their diaper is wet.
It’s now thought that baby powder only increases friction and makes the rash worse. Instead, dry the bottom after changing, or leave the diaper off for as long as you can, before applying a diaper rash ointment and recovering. The best treatment for diaper rash is leaving a diaper off as much as you can.