Most will disappear on their own
Young kids get weird rashes. If you haven’t lived through newborn rash, diaper rash, ring worm or molloscum, count yourself lucky. Babies, toddlers and preschoolers get more rashes than adults because their immune systems are more susceptible to viruses, and behind many a rash lives a virus. Luckily most rashes are temporary and go away with simple treatments.
Let’s start with the very youngest. Did you know half of all newborns come with a splotchy rash? It’s technically called erythema toxicum and shows up in two to five days after birth. It looks like a red area with small white or yellow bumps. It can be anywhere, but doesn’t show on hands or feet. No one knows what the source is, and there is no treatment. It will go away usually within a few weeks or a month.
An add-on to the common cold
Sometimes, babies and toddlers get a rash with a cold virus. Viral rashes come in different shapes and sizes, but often they are red, blotchy spots that are sometimes itchy. They can come on quickly, but tend to only last a few days. They’re not usually serious even though they can look it.
Babies can get eczema, a skin condition that strikes any age but is more common in children. It’s described as ‘an itch that rashes’ and often shows up on babies’ cheeks as red or yellow crusty patches. Toddlers are also prone to it and classically get it in the folds of the elbows, knees and neck. Eczema is prevalent in our dry climate. Pediatricians advise patients to use moisturizer and to cleanse with just water, not soap. For treatment, try over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream. A two-week treatment of 0.5-1.0 percent cream once each day is safe for infants. Avoid other non-steroid creams for children under 2.
What parent hasn’t seen diaper rash? Diaper rash is caused by a rubbing diaper, chemicals in the diaper absorbent, bacteria, or wet urine or stool against the skin. Especially watch for a rash caused by a yeast infection after a round of antibiotics. It will be an extra bright, beefy red with some pustules. Since yeast is a fungus, you’ll need to treat it with an antifungal; over-the-counter varieties are effective, but check with your doctor first. For simple diaper rash, zinc oxide creams work well. Use one with a high concentration—such as 40 percent—to create a barrier and help the chafed, raw skin heal.
The dreaded ringworm: raised, red, scaly and with a distinct circular edge. Ringworm is common in childhood and is caused by a fungus, not a worm. It’s contagious and can be passed from people and animals. The trick with ringworm is catching it early and treating it with an over-the-counter anti-fungal cream, like miconazole or clotrimazole. Be diligent and it should go away in two to four weeks.
Here’s one many parents have never heard of—molloscum—another unfriendly rash. Molluscum contagiosum is caused by a virus. It is often a grouping of painless, white, firm, small growths that appear on the face, body, buttocks and genitalia. They look similar to white heads. Again, it is common in childhood—more with boys—and is contagious. It can be hard to get rid of, so be diligent. Try tea tree oil for mild cases, or simply wait it out. It often goes away on its own. More invasive treatments involve scraping the lesions or cryotherapy (freezing with liquid nitrogen) in a doctor’s office.
With all rashes, see a doctor if it doesn’t go away on its own within a few weeks, or if it worsens. While rashes can look terrible, most pass without in-office treatment or lasting concerns.