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Check Your Symptoms
Healthy skin is a barrier between the inside of the body and the outside environment. A rash means that some change has affected the skin. In most cases, a rash is a minor problem or is part of an illness that will go away on its own. A rash may be caused by contact with a substance outside the body, such as poison ivy (contact dermatitis), or by other more serious illnesses, such as measles or scarlet fever (strep throat with rash).
Generalized rashes are over the whole body. Ones caused by viruses are more common in babies and young children than in adults. A rash may be caused by a viral illness if the child also has a cold, a cough, or diarrhea, or is in a day care setting with other children who have viral illnesses. Most rashes caused by viruses aren't serious. They usually go away over a few days to a week. Home treatment is often all that's needed to treat these rashes.
After a child has had a rash caused by a virus, their body often builds an immunity to that virus. This immunity protects the child from getting that specific viral illness and rash again. Common rashes caused by viruses include:
Localized rashes affect one area of the body. They have many different causes and may go away with home treatment. Common localized rashes that occur during childhood include:
Rashes that may require a visit to a doctor include:
To know how serious the rash is, other symptoms that occur with the rash must be looked at.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
If you're not sure if a child's fever is high, moderate, or mild, think about these issues:
With a high fever:
With a moderate fever:
With a mild fever:
Abnormal bleeding means any heavy or frequent bleeding or any bleeding that is not normal for you. Examples of abnormal bleeding include:
When you have abnormal bleeding in one area of your body, it's important to think about whether you have been bleeding anywhere else. This can be a symptom of a more serious health problem.
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in children are:
Symptoms of infection may include:
Temperature varies a little depending on how you measure it. For children up to 11 years old, here are the ranges for high, moderate, and mild according to how you took the temperature.
Oral (by mouth), ear, or rectal temperature
A forehead (temporal) scanner is usually 0.5° F (0.3° C) to 1° F (0.6° C) lower than an oral temperature.
Armpit (axillary) temperature
Note: For children under 5 years old, rectal temperatures are the most accurate.
Symptoms of serious illness in a baby may include the following:
Symptoms of serious illness may include:
Sudden tiny red or purple spots or sudden bruising may be early symptoms of a serious illness or bleeding problem. There are two types.
Petechiae (say "puh-TEE-kee-eye"):
Purpura (say "PURR-pyuh-ruh" or “PURR-puh-ruh”):
Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) may include:
A severe reaction can be life-threatening. If you have had a bad allergic reaction to a substance before and are exposed to it again, treat any symptoms as an emergency. Even if the symptoms are mild at first, they may quickly become very severe.
A baby that is extremely sick:
A baby that is sick (but not extremely sick):
Many prescription and nonprescription medicines can cause a rash. A few common examples are:
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may occur quickly after a sudden illness or injury.
Babies and young children often have several symptoms of shock. These include:
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Most rashes will go away without medical treatment. Home treatment can often relieve pain and itching until the rash goes away.
After a rash appears, leave it alone as much as you can.
But if your child has come in contact with a substance that may cause contact dermatitis, such as poison ivy, wash the area with a lot of water right away. If you can, use liquid dish soap or a mild soap and very warm running water.
If your child has a rash, they should not be in contact with other children or anyone who is pregnant. Most viral rashes are contagious, especially if the person also has a fever.
In most cases, itching with a rash isn't serious, but it can be annoying. And it may make a rash more likely to get infected. Rashes caused by chickenpox, eczema, or contact dermatitis are much more likely to itch. Sometimes itching can get worse if you scratch.
Try these tips to help relieve your child's itching from a rash.
Encourage your child not to scratch. Cover your baby's hands with socks to help keep your baby from scratching.
Heat makes itching worse.
Put cloths soaked in ice water on the rash a few times a day. Too much wetting and drying will dry the skin, which can increase itching. Don't put cloths soaked in ice water on the skin of a baby younger than 9 months. It may cause the baby's body temperature to go down.
Or you can try an oatmeal bath product, such as Aveeno.
Don't use wool and synthetic fabrics next to the skin.
Examples of these soaps are Basis, Cetaphil, Dove, and Oil of Olay. Use as little soap as you can. Don't use deodorant soaps on your child.
Try using ones such as CheerFree or Ecover. Rinse twice to remove all traces of the soap. Don't use strong detergents.
Dry skin can make itching worse.
Carefully read and follow all label directions on the medicine bottle or box.
Do not use the cream on children younger than age 2 unless your doctor tells you to do so. Do not use in the rectal or vaginal area on children younger than age 12 unless your doctor tells you to do so.
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Current as of:
March 21, 2023
Author: Healthwise StaffClinical Review Board: All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.
Current as of: March 21, 2023
Clinical Review Board:
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2023 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
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