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Rash in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

What is a rash?

A rash is irritation, redness, or itchiness in your child's skin or mucus membranes. Mucus membranes are found in the lining of your child's nose and throat.

What causes a rash?

The cause of your child's rash may not be known. The following are common causes:

  • A bacterial, fungal, or viral infection
  • An allergic reaction to an animal or insect bite, food, or medicine
  • Skin sensitivity or allergy to chemicals in soaps, lotions, or fabric softeners
  • Heavy sweating or moisture left on the skin for a long period of time
  • Being in hot or humid weather for a long period of time

What should I tell my child's healthcare provider about my child's rash?

  • When you first saw the rash and where on your child's body you saw it
  • What happened before the rash showed up, such as foods your child ate or soaps your child bathed with
  • Medicines your child takes or any allergies your child has
  • Other children or family members who have rashes or allergies
  • Treatments you have tried to heal the rash
  • Any other symptoms your child has, such as a fever

Which medicines are used to treat a rash?

Treatment will depend on the condition causing your child's rash. Your child may need any of the following:

  • Antihistamines are given to treat rashes caused by an allergic reaction. They may also be given to decrease itchiness.
  • Steroids may be given to decrease swelling, itching, and redness. Steroids can be given as a pill, shot, or cream.
  • Antibiotics may be given to treat a bacterial infection. They may be given as a pill, liquid, or ointment.
  • Antifungals may be given to treat a fungal infection. They may be given as a pill, liquid, or ointment.
  • Zinc oxide ointment may be given to treat a rash caused by moisture.

What can I do to help manage a rash?

  • Tell your child not to scratch his or her skin if it itches. Scratching can make the skin itch worse when he or she stops. Your child may also cause a skin infection by scratching. Cut your child's fingernails short to prevent scratching. Try to distract your child with games and activities.
  • Use thick creams, lotions, or petroleum jelly to help soothe your child's rash. Do not use any cream or lotion that has a scent or dye.
  • Apply cool compresses to soothe your child's skin. This may help with itching. Use a washcloth or towel soaked in cool water. Leave it on your child's skin for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat this up to 4 times each day.
  • Use lukewarm water to bathe your child. Hot water can make the rash worse. You can add 1 cup of oatmeal to your child's bath to decrease itching. Ask your child's healthcare provider what kind of oatmeal to use. Pat your child's skin dry. Do not rub your child's skin with a towel.
  • Use detergents, soaps, shampoos, and bubble baths made for sensitive skin. Use products that do not have scents or dyes. Ask your child's healthcare provider which products are best to use. Do not use fabric softener on your child's clothes.
  • Dress your child in clothes made of cotton instead of nylon or wool. Cotton will be softer and gentler on your child's skin.
  • Keep your child cool and dry in warm or hot weather. Dress your child in 1 layer of clothing in this type of weather. Keep your child out of the sun as much as possible. Use a fan or air conditioning to keep your child cool. Remove sweat and body oil with cool water. Pat the area dry. Do not apply skin ointments in warm or hot weather.
  • Leave your child's skin open to air without clothing as much as possible. Do this after you bathe your child or change his or her diaper. Also do this in hot or humid weather.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

Call 911 if:

  • Your child has trouble breathing.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child has tiny red dots that cannot be felt and do not fade when you press them.
  • Your child has bruises that are not caused by injuries.
  • Your child feels dizzy or faints.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child has a fever or chills.
  • Your child's rash gets worse or does not get better after treatment.
  • Your child has a sore throat, ear pain, or muscles aches.
  • Your child has nausea or is vomiting.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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