Seldom does a child reach adulthood without developing a rash of one type or another, and it's not always easy to differentiate between conditions like eczema and poison ivy.
On The Saturday Early Show, Dr. Mallika Marshall from WBZ-TV gave some tips on spotting and treating common skin disorders in children.
Although many parents may get nervous when their child develops a rash, Marshall says not to worry too much. Kids get rashes all the time, according to her, and most of them are harmless.
Many rashes even can be treated at home. But Dr. Marshall says if you have any concerns about your child's condition, don't hesitate to get him or her in to see a doctor.
The following are some common rashes Dr. Marshall discussed on The Saturday Early Show:
Eczema is incredibly common, Dr. Marshall says, affecting up to 10 percent of the population. It usually appears as an itchy, red, scaly rash on the elbows, wrists or knees, though it can occur on other parts of the body. Kids with asthma, hay fever or a family history of eczema are more likely to develop it. Dr. Marshall explains that eczema is a chronic condition and may persist into adulthood.
Dr. Marshall says steroid creams, such as hydrocortisone, usually are used to treat eczema during a flare-up. Itching can be treated with antihistamines such as Benadryl. And, she says, oatmeal baths can be very soothing. But prevention is key to controlling the disease. And keeping the skin well hydrated is very important. So, you want to bathe your child no more than once every 1 to 2 days with a moisturizing soap, according to Dr. Marshall. You want to slather them with lotion as soon as they get out of the bath to seal in the moisture. And you want to keep your children away from anything that may trigger their eczema such as certain types of clothing, including wool as well as irritating soaps or harsh chemicals.
Chicken pox is something almost all parents have to deal with. It is caused by varicella, a highly contagious virus. It usually develops as multiple small red bumps that become water-filled blisters. They evolve into open sores and eventually crust over into little scabs. Dr. Marshall says it usually starts on the head or back and quickly spreads over the body. Most children will also have a fever and possibly even cold-like symptoms. The sores usually continue to appear for 4 to 5 days.
The rash can be very itchy. So, Dr. Marshall recommends giving a child affected with the illness a cool oatmeal bath. Calamine lotion can be placed on the itchiest spots to help, she says. And if the itching is unbearable, Benadryl can also help. Use acetaminophen or Tylenol for fever, Dr. Marshall says. And if it looks like your child is developing an infection around the sores, call your doctor.
Dr. Marshall says your child will be contagious until all sores have crusted over. So, try to limit contact to anyone who hasn't had chicken pox in the past or who hasn't been vaccinated against it.
Dr. Marshall says infection by poison ivy is a common problem around the summer. Poison ivy looks like red streaks, patches or blisters on any area that has come into contact with the poison ivy plant. The rash usually develops 1 to 2 days after exposure. And it's very itchy. The itching can be treated with over-the-counter steroid creams, calamine lotion or Benadryl, according to Dr. Marshall. But, she says, you should have your child seen by his pediatrician if the rash is extensive.
The skin blisters from poison ivy infection are not contagious, says Dr. Marshall. So if you come into contact with a poison ivy reaction, you're not going to catch it. But, Dr. Marshall explains, the sap from the plant is contagious, so any remaining sap on your clothes or on a pet should be washed off and avoided.
Dr. Marshall says hives are itchy, raised pink spots of varying shapes and sizes. And they tend to change in appearance, moving from one part of a body to another, often before your very eyes. Hives can be caused from any number of things such as allergies to foods, medicines, insect bites and viral infections. They are not contagious, and they may come and go over days. Dr. Marshall says if your child is very itchy, they can be treated with Benadryl. Hives are usually not serious, but if your child develops problems breathing you need to call your doctor or 911 right away.
Many people have heard of scabies, but they aren't sure what it is. Dr. Marshall explains scabies is an incredibly itchy skin condition caused by tiny mites or little creatures, which burrow into the skin. Scabies cannot be seen with the naked eye. They are usually spread through close contact with an infected person. But, Dr. Marshall says, they can also be spread through contaminated clothing and linens.
To get rid of scabies, Dr. Marshall recommends to first get a diagnostic from a physician. Treatment, she says, involves rubbing a scabicide cream all over the body for 8 to 12 hours. And everyone who's come into close contact with the infected child needs to be treated as well, even if they don't have symptoms. Dr. Marshall says to prevent a recurrence of scabies, all bedding, towels and clothing need to be washed in hot water to kill the mites.
Another skin condition that's commons this time of year is ringworm. Dr. Marshall says ringworm, despite what the name implies, is a fungal infection of the skin or scalp. It is not caused by a worm. Dr. Marshall explains it can be passed from one child to another or from an infected puppy or kitten. Ringworm of the skin usually causes a scaly, dry, round lesion with a clear center that can be itchy. In the scalp, it usually causes round scaly bald patches in your child's hair.
Dr. Marshall says over-the-counter topical antifungal creams can treat ringworm. It usually takes 3 to 4 weeks to resolve. Ringworm in the scalp, however, needs to be treated with prescription anti-fungal medications by mouth for 6 to 8 weeks. So, Dr. Marshall says, if you notice something that looks like ringworm in your child's scalp, you have to take them to see their pediatrician.
Diaper rash is usually caused by chronic wetness, irritation from the diaper materials or contact with harsh chemicals in urine or stool. But, Dr. Marshall says, sometimes diaper rash can be caused by a fungal infection as well. The skin may look red, raw, scalded or burned. It is one of the most common skin problems seen in kids.
Dr. Marshall says diaper rashes usually aren't serious and can be managed at home. First, you want to keep the area clean and dry. Make sure you air-dry your baby's "bum" thoroughly before re-applying a new diaper. Dr. Marshall says you can protect the skin with over-the-counter ointments such as zinc oxide, A&D ointment or Desitin cream. If the rash doesn't improve after 48 to 72 hours, check with your doctor to see if your child needs medicated cream.