What’s That Rash? 5 Common Illnesses Every Parent Needs To Know

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Rashes are a common occurrence in kids. From simple heat rash or nappy rash to more serious skin conditions like eczema, no kid gets through childhood rash-free.

However, there are some more notable rashes that are caused by viruses and bacterial infections that all parents should be aware of.

Here are 5 to keep an eye out for:

1. Hand Foot and Mouth Disease

What causes it? 

A virus – from a group of viruses called enteroviruses, usually the coxsackie A virus.

What does it look like?

  • Small blister-like lesions inside mouth, on palms of hands and soles of feet.
  • Possibly also on knees, elbows and nappy area.

Other symptoms

  • Mild Fever (appears first)
  • Runny Nose
  • Sore throat and mouth

Treatment

  • No specific treatment other than pain relief, such as paracetamol, for fever and discomfort.

How is it spread?

  • Contact with blisters –last 3-5 days but are no longer infectious after they have crusted over.
  • Nose & throat secretions – through sneezing, coughing etc.
  • Faeces – still infectious several weeks after person has recovered.
  • Common in places of close contact such as child care centres.
  • Incubation period is 4-6 days.

2. Impetigo (School Sores)

What causes it?

A bacteria infection – from bacteria such as Streptococcus A or Staphylococcus aureus 

What does it look like?

  • Flat red spots or small blisters, common on face, hands and legs.
  • Spots may be filled with pus and have a crust once burst.
  • Untreated, sores can get bigger.

Other symptoms

  • Itching or soreness

Treatment

  • Antibiotic medicine/ointment
  • Covering sores with watertight dressings to avoid scratching and spread of infection.

How is it spread?

  • When an existing sore gets infected by a particular bacteria.
  • Impetigo is highly contagious both spreading sores on the child and to other children.

3. Molluscum Contagiosum

What causes it?

A virus – Molluscum Contagiosum Virus (MCV)

What does it look like?

  • Small, raised lumps with a dent in the middle that look similar to pimples or warts.
  • Will have a core that looks cheesey/waxy.
  • The lumps can be pink or pearl-coloured and are usually small.
  • Rash can last months or years and can spread to other parts of the body.

Other symptoms

  • Itching /dermatitis

Treatment

  • No formal treatment
  • Some get lumps frozen off as they can last a long time
  • Dermatitis creams to ease itching
  • Prevention of spreading spots to other parts of the body including covering them to avoid scratching.

How is it spread?

  • Contact, including infected items such as towels or even bath or pool water.
  • Incubation period of virus can be up to 2 months.
  • Common in warm, moist weather.

4. Scarlet Fever

What causes it?

A bacterial infection – Streptococcus (Group A)

What does it look like?

  • Tiny red spots, similar to sunburn.
  • Usually rough and bumpy, like sandpaper.
  • Also may turn tongue red.

Other symptoms

  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • High fever
  • Vomiting

Treatment

  • Antibiotics

How is it spread?

  • Contact, sneezing or coughing.
  • Infectious period 1-2 days if treated.
  • Can last much longer if not treated.

5. Slapped cheek disease (Fifth syndrome)

What causes it?

A virus – parvovirus B19

What does it look like?

  • A blotchy rash that starts on face then starts to look more lacy as it fades.
  • Rash will also spread to torso, back, arms and legs.
  • Rash may take 1-3 weeks to clear and may come and go.
  • By the time rash has appeared child is usually no longer sick or contagious.

Other symptoms

  • Fever (appears first)
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • Joint swelling or pain (older children)

Treatment

  • Rest and pain relief, if necessary.

How is it spread?

  • Contact, coughing or sneezing.
  • Incubation period of virus is about 2 weeks, is when children are most contagious.

Remember that antibiotics will only work on bacterial infections, not viruses.

Of course, there are many more sinister childhood illnesses that involve a rash, such as meningococcal, chicken pox, measles and more. If your child has a rash that concerns you, don’t hesitate to see your GP.

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About Author

Renee Meier

Renée is a freelance writer, perpetual student and aspiring novelist. In her spare time she's the sole parent to 3 rambunctious little people. She survives predominantly on coffee and squishy hugs.

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