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The skinny on rashes

Childhood is riddled with rashes that often look more dramatic than they are serious. A number of conditions from allergies to various infections may manifest themselves on your child’s skin. It can be tricky to decipher whether a rash is a chronic condition, a reaction to a new detergent or something more dire, and your attempts at treatment can delay your doctor’s diagnosis. Here are some descriptions of common childhood rashes.

Eczema is a general term describing several conditions that appear as reddened, itchy patches on the skin that may crack, ooze or develop small, fluid-filled bumps. A chronic form, atopic dermatitis, occurs in children with allergies or a family history of allergies, asthma or eczema. Contact dermatitis occurs when the skin touches an irritating or allergic substance such as citrus juices, bubble-bath powders, soaps, detergents, certain foods or medicines, rubber, wool or rough fabrics, toothpaste flavorings, clothing dyes, nickel jewelry or studs on denim jeans, and pesky plants (poison ivy, oak and sumac). The red or yellow scaly rash on a young baby’s scalp, know as cradle cap, is also a form of eczema.

Roseola is a common viral illness, affecting children between ages 6 months and 2 years. The pinkish-red raised rash first appears on the child’s trunk at the end of a week-long illness, which includes a high fever, mild upper-respiratory symptoms, irritability, decreased appetite and swollen glands.

Fifth disease usually affects children 10 and younger and begins with a low-grade fever, headache and mild cold symptoms. These symptoms pass, and your child seems to recover, but a few days later, bright red, raised patches appear on the face and look as if the cheeks were “slapped.” Over the next few days, the rash turns pink, spreads to the body and develops a lace-like pattern.

Chicken pox appears as an intensely itchy rash one to two days after the start of what seems to be a cold with a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing and cough. The rash first appears as pinkish dots that quickly develop small, fluid-filled blisters.

A rash signals something is wrong, serious or not, and a timely diagnosis will ease your child’s discomfort and aid healing. Have a doctor evaluate new rashes before you treat them on your own. And tell your child not to scratch!