Common Skin Problems Your Kids Might Encounter

ECZEMA (DRY SKIN)

Eczema is the medical term for extremely dry skin, and it is very common in babies and children.

This child has chronic eczema in her elbow crease, and an acute allergic skin reaction with hives over her forearm.

Eczema often begins in newborns with two round red patches on the skin, sometimes on the cheeks, behind the ears, or on the scalp (CRADLE CAP).  Over the first few weeks, it moves to the wrists and ankles and sometimes the arms, thighs, or stomach.

Always use perfume and dye free laundry detergent, soaps, and creams.  Dress children in cotton clothing.

Old school thinking on eczema was to minimize the number of baths that you give your baby, however, thinking has changed.   Doctors now recommend daily baths in warm water NOT hot water for no more than 3-5 minutes.  Pat the skin dry, then promptly apply a rich hypoallergenic moisturizer.

Shorten your baby or child’s fingernails to reduce problems from scratching.   Nail clippers often cause bleeding at the nail bed if you try to cut the nails too short.  Instead, use an emery board to file their nails very short.

Put scratch mittens on newborns at night, children can wear cotton socks or gloves on their hands to prevent scratching while asleep.

Eczema is aggravated by heat.  Often you’ll find it’s actually worse in summer and not winter.  In very hot weather, stay indoors, in air conditioning.   Find a great indoor playground for young children on those super hot days.  Also, playing the grass can aggravate eczema, so when possible, dress children in lightweight pants instead of shorts.

Use a humidifier in the winter to keep skin from drying out.

Topical steroids are helpful for controlling itch and inflammation; ask your doctor for a prescription. Antihistamines may help relieve itching, but tend to make the baby or child very sleepy.  They can be helpful with babies who can’t sleep because they are itchy and scratching all night.

Antibiotics may be required to treat skin infections which can arise as a complication from so much scratching.

 

HEAT RASH

Symptoms of heat rash include tiny pink bumps, mainly on the neck and upper back.  It is also called prickly heat.  Treat heat rash with techniques that cool off the skin and allow it to breathe.  Give your child a cool bath for 10 minutes every 2-3 hours without soap.  Let their skin dry completely before dressing them in loose cotton clothing.  Keep them in air conditioning if possible.

 

HIVES

Hives look a lot like mosquito bites.  Symptoms of hives are raised pink spots with fluid filled centers.  They can vary in size and shape, and be up to 3 inches across.  Hives are very itchy.

Hives are often caused by allergies to foods or insect stings.  Though some children develop hives when their skin in exposed in very cold weather.  Please record the incidence of hives along with what your child has eaten or come into contact with.  Bring this with you when you follow up with the doctor.

Immediate treatment for hives is an oral antihistamine which will work quickly to relieve the itch and swelling.  Also, a cool bath or ice massage to the hives can help relieve the itch.

Call 911 if your child presents with any of the following symptoms:  difficulty breathing, swollen tongue, was stung by an insect, has vomiting, is unconscious, acts or looks very sick.

 

ROSEOLA

If your child has 2-4 days of moderate to high fever which clears up, then 24 hrs later, they have a pink rash mainly on the trunk, your child likely has ROSEOLA.  Roseola affects children aged 6 months to 3 years and it is caused by a virus, human herpes virus 6.

There is no treatment necessary and children recover on their own.  Some children have 3 days of fever with no rash.

Roseola is contagious.  Infected children should be kept away from healthy children under the age of 3.  Symptoms appear about 12 days after exposure.

 

RUBELLA (GERMAN MEASLES)

Symptoms of rubella include widespread pink or red spots which start on the face and move quickly downward covering the entire body.  Spots last 3-4 days and are accompanied by fever.  Rubella can be difficult to diagnose as the rash is not distinctive.

Rubella is generally a mild disease, however complications for pregnant women are severe and serious.  Unborn babies can develop severe birth defects as a result.  If you suspect your child may have rubella, keep them away from any pregnant women for at least 5 days from the onset of the rash.

Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever if needed.

 

IMPETIGO

Impetigo is a bacterial skin infection.  Skin lesions begin as small red bumps, change to yellow-headed pimples, then become sores with honey colored scabs which may drain pus.

Bacteria enter the skin where it is broken by cuts, scrapes, insect bites, etc.  It is most common in children and is highly contagious often spreading quickly through day care centers.

If your child has a mild localized infection, your doctor may be able to clear it up with an antibacterial cream.   However, severe cases of impetigo may require oral antibiotics.

Care must be taken to prevent the spread of impetigo to other parts of the child’s body and to other people in the family.  Discourage your child from touching infected areas and wash his/her hands many times per day.  The child with impetigo must use a dedicated towel that isn’t used by anyone else in the house; then washed with hot water and bleach.  Keep sores covered.

 

COLD SORES (HERPES SIMPLEX)

Cold sores are highly contagious.

Cold sores are caused by the Herpes Simplex virus, a common virus for children to contract.  Oral herpes is highly contagious and is spread by touching the mouth, especially by kissing.Once a child has first contracted the virus, they may or may not have symptoms which include fever, headache, loss of appetite, pain in gums, blisters inside the mouth.  After this initial infection, the child becomes a carrier of the virus.  During times of stress, the virus can be reactivated producing a visible cold sore on the mouth.  This often does not happen until they are an adult.

If you suspect your child has contracted the herpes virus, contact your doctor.  Treatment of cold sore or herpes virus symptoms includes:  acetaminophen for fever or pain, mouth gargles as prescribed by your doctor, avoiding acidic foods and drinks such as tomatoes, orange juice, and using an antiviral medication prescribed by your doctor.

 

JOCK ITCH

Jock itch is caused by a fungus, the same fungus that causes athlete’s foot.  Symptoms of jock itch include a pink, scaly, itchy rash on groin or inner thighs.  Over the counter anti-fungal powder or spray should be applied to the rash at least twice per day according to manufacturer directions.  Continue use for at least 7 days after rash has cleared, or it may come back.

Avoid scratching.  Wear loose fitting cotton underwear.  Wash the area thoroughly each day, but avoid using soap.  Dry the area thoroughly after bathing.

Jock itch is not very contagious.

 

PLANTAR’S WARTS

A plantar’s wart is caused by the human papillomavirus and is found on the bottom of the foot.

They are generally not all that troublesome, but some do cause pain on standing or walking.

The wart grows into the foot as opposed to forming an external bump on bottom of the foot.  The center of the wart usually has one or more black specks.

Plantar’s warts are highly contagious and are most often spread at swimming pools, and in public showers and change areas.  If your child has a plantar wart, it is important to keep it covered and wear flip flops in these areas to avoid spreading it to others.  If your child does not have a wart, but frequents these types of place, I recommend flip flops to prevent him from getting it.

Plantar’s warts often go away on their own, but they may recur for a year or two before going away.  There are many over the counter treatments for plantar’s warts that will help speed things up.

The duct tape method is inexpensive and worth a try.  Simply cut a small piece of duct tape and cover the wart 6 days per week, 24 hrs a day.  On the 7th day, use a blade or small tool to remove only the dead skin.  Continue if needed.

Occasionally, very stubborn plantar warts require a doctor’s intervention.  Your doctor may use liquid nitrogen or laser surgery to remove the wart.

 

HEAD LICE

Nits are removed using a fine-toothed comb.

Are head lice a parents worse nightmare? They certainly are a common fear when you have school aged children.

Head lice can spread quickly despite good hygiene and hair washing habits.  They are spread through close contact or sharing personal items such as hats, combs, scarves, etc. Many parents choose to keep a child’s hair short, or tightly braided to lower the chances of their child getting heading lice at school.

The lice themselves are gray bugs which are long, quick, and difficult to see.  The eggs are white, called nits, and they attach to the hair shafts and cannot be shaken off.   The nits are easier to see than the lice and hatch within 1 week.

A child with head lice will have a rashy, itchy scalp, especially at the back of the neck.

To remove the lice, ask your pharmacist to recommend a medicated shampoo for head lice, and follow the manufacturer’s directions to the letter.  Generally, the shampoo is left on the hair and scrubbed in for 10 minutes before rinsing.  Then it must be repeated after 7 days.

You will need to remove the nits using a fine-tooth comb.  They can be loosened by first soaking the hair in half vinegar and half water.  Let sit for 30 minutes, then comb your child’s hair thoroughly.

There are other natural hair treatments available including products based with tea tree oil.

Next, you must clean the house…….Your child’s brushes and combs should be soaked 1 hour in anti-lice shampoo.  Wash your child’s sheets, blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, any soft or stuffed items in hot water (140 degrees F).  Items that can’t be washed should be place in airtight plastic bags for 2 weeks.  Vacuum your child’s room thoroughly.

Check the scalp of everyone else living in the house, children and adults.   They may require the same treatment.