Common Skin Conditions & Treatments for Kids and Adults

Last updated on August 31st, 2015 at 01:02 am

The facts behind five common skin problems and the treatments available.

Warts

Most people develop a wart at some stage in their life, usually by the age of 20.

What are they?

Warts are flesh-coloured lumps, which can be 1mm to more than 1cm across. Warts can appear anywhere, but usually affect the hands and feet. A wart on the foot is called a verruca (plantar wart*). Genital warts appear around the genitals or anus.

What causes warts?

They are caused by infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV), which can be passed on through skin-to-skin contact and sometimes through surfaces such as floors and towels. If you have a wart, you can spread it to other people through close contact. You can also spread it to other parts of your own body.

What’s the treatment?

Most warts go away by themselves, but this can take up to two years. Treatments include:

  • Over-the-counter creams and gels (not for use on genital warts) – ask your pharmacist which ones may be suitable for you
  • Prescription chemicals to be dabbed on to the wart
  • Cryotherapy (freezing), which should be carried out by a practitioner trained in cryotherapy
  • Surgery and laser treatment, but these are not commonly used

There is limited evidence that duct tape placed over the wart can be effective.

These treatments may be painful and the warts may come back.

Do I need to see a doctor?

See your GP (family doctor*) if the wart is bothering you, if you want your GP to treat it, or if treatments from the pharmacy have not worked. If you have genital warts, it’s important to go to your GP or a genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic so you can be given appropriate treatment.

Find out more about treating warts.

Girl applying dermatology cream on skinImpetigo

Impetigo is common in babies and children, but can affect anyone. It usually develops on the face and hands. In babies it affects the nappy (diaper*) area.

What is it?

Impetigo is an infection in the skin. Small blisters appear and burst, leaving yellow, moist, itchy patches that dry to a crust. The skin underneath can be red and inflamed.

What causes impetigo?

It is caused by bacteria that enter the skin through a cut, scratch or damage from an existing skin condition, such as eczema. Impetigo can be spread by direct contact and sharing towels or bedding with someone who has it.

What’s the treatment?

Impetigo is likely to clear up by itself within three weeks. However, it’s very contagious, so antibiotic cream or tablets should be used to get rid of it quickly.

Do I need to see a doctor?

See your GP (family doctor*) for a diagnosis and to prescribe antibiotics. Most people are not contagious after 48 hours of treatment or once their sores have dried. It’s sensible for children not to go to school or nursery until they are no longer contagious.

Find out more about treatment for impetigo.

Read Marilyn’s story of her young son’s impetigo.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis affects 2% of people in the UK. It usually begins between the ages of 11 and 45. Psoriasis runs in families, and one-third of people with psoriasis have a close relative with the condition. Psoriasis is not infectious.

What is it?

Psoriasis causes flaky, red patches on the skin. They can look shiny and cause itching or burning. They can be anywhere, but are more common on elbows, knees and the lower back.

What causes psoriasis?

Some of the body’s antibodies attack skin cells by mistake, causing them to reproduce too quickly and build up on the skin. Certain things may make symptoms worse, including alcohol, smoking and some medicines, such as anti-inflammatories (for example, ibuprofen) and beta-blockers (used to treat heart problems). It is not passed on through close contact.

What’s the treatment?

Treatments to reduce the patches depend on their severity. They include:

  • Creams containing vitamin D or vitamin A
  • Steroid creams
  • Tar preparations
  • Exposing the skin to ultraviolet (UV) light
  • Medication taken by mouth or injection

Do I need to see a doctor?

Most people are treated by their GP (family doctor*), but some are referred to a dermatologist (skin specialist).

Find out more about treatment for psoriasis.

Read about Ray’s experience of psoriasis.

Ringworm

Ringworm is common in children, but can affect anyone. It appears on the head, body, groin, feet, nails or beard area.

What is it?

Ringworm is not a worm, but a number of fungal infections that grow in a patch or circle on the skin. It can be a few millimetres to a few centimetres across. The patches or circles look red or silvery and can blister and ooze.

What causes ringworm?

Fungal spores enter the skin through a break, such as a scratch or a patch of eczema. Ringworm can be passed on through direct contact and sharing items such as towels, bedding or combs. It can also be passed on from the floor of shower or swimming pool areas. Pets can pass it to people.

What’s the treatment?

Antifungal creams, powders or tablets, available from the pharmacy, can be effective.

Do I need to see a doctor?

See your GP (family doctor*) if you aren’t sure if it’s ringworm, or if the infection has not responded to pharmacy treatment after two weeks.

Find out about the symptoms of ringworm.

Vitiligo

One in 100 people in the UK develops vitiligo. It can occur at any age, but more than half of cases begin before the age of 20. It affects men and women of any skin colour. Vitiligo is not infectious.

What is it?

Vitiligo causes pale white patches on the skin. These patches can occur anywhere, but are more noticeable on areas that are exposed to sunlight, such as the face and hands, and on dark or tanned skin. On the scalp, vitiligo can cause hair to turn white. Patches can be small or large, stay the same size, or grow. Vitiligo cannot be passed on through close contact.

What causes vitiligo?

It is caused by a lack of melanocyte cells, which colour the skin. These cells can be missing because:

  • The immune system isn’t working properly and attacks them
  • The skin has come into contact with certain chemicals or has been severely sunburnt

Vitiligo is also linked to having an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism).

What’s the treatment?

Treatment aims to restore skin colour and control the spread of vitiligo. Treatment can include:

  • Steroid creams
  • Ultraviolet A (UVA) light
  • Disguising the patches with coloured creams, some of which are available on prescription

If vitiligo affects more than 50% of the skin, treatment may involve lightening the healthy skin using prescription creams. It’s important that this treatment is carried out under the supervision of a doctor.

Creams that you can buy without a prescription that claim to lighten skin can contain harmful chemicals, so don’t use them.

Find out more about the risks of skin lightening.

Do I need to see a doctor?

See your GP (family doctor*) to confirm the diagnosis and prescribe treatment.

Find out more about treatment for vitiligo.

Read Elena’s story of life with vitiligo.

Editor’s Note: * clarification provided for our U.S. audience

About the Author

NHS Choices (www.nhs.uk) is the UK’s biggest health website. It provides a comprehensive health information service to help put you in control of your healthcare.

Comments

16 Responses to “Common Skin Conditions & Treatments for Kids and Adults”

  1. what is the difference between psoriasis and eczema? How to fix these both skin problems.

  2. Vitiligo is such an interesting skin condition! My mother has it, and she thought she was getting skin cancer when the spots were small. She just started treatment for it this morning.

    • Stefanie ZuckerStefanie Zucker says:

      Scary when you see something and you don’t know what it is… Glad your mom is ok! Thanks Veronika for stopping by! 🙂

  3. James says:

    Great article. I like your suggestions.

  4. I haven’t ever heard of impetigo, but am thinking it’s what my daughter has. Initially I thought she just had a diaper rash. However, it definitely shows signs of having small blisters, like this article described. I need to take her to the doctor to be sure, but since it’s so close to Christmas, I was hoping it wouldn’t require an office visit!

  5. Benjamin Adams says:

    All of my kids have caught impetigo at one point or another and it can be a real pain to deal with especially when you don’t want them all to catch it and have to isolate them slightly. Antibiotics and anti-itch cream really work for me and Epsom salt baths to soothe the itching, just make sure their wounds aren’t open otherwise this can be very painful for them.

    This is a very helpful post for other illnesses! Some facts I didn’t know but will be making a note of.

    • Stefanie ZuckerStefanie Zucker says:

      Thanks Benjamin and apologies for the delay in responding… (your comment got stuck in one of our filters). It’s a nightmare when you have multiple kids itching and in pain at the same time. Sounds like you unfortunately got to become an expert. Hopefully you won’t have to go through anything like that again, but glad to know if you run into any of the others, that some of the info we have on here may be a help! Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Peter says:

    Some Skin disease today can cause also your life, so it is important to take care your skin, This article is a big help for those who are suffering from skin disease mentioned in this articles.

    Thanks, It is such a great help.. more power

    • Stefanie ZuckerStefanie Zucker says:

      Thanks Peter…we agree, it’s not worth taking chances. Thanks so much for stopping by…and the nice comments. We really appreciate them! 🙂

  7. How about Eczema? My daughter has been diagnosed with it. We tried different creams and ointments but there was no positive effect. Can you suggest other treatment options?

    • Hi Sandra,
      As with any health condition, the best option is to talk to your child’s doctor, but in the meantime, here is a link to another Pediatric Safety article on eczema. We hope you find it useful. Thanks for your comment.

  8. John says:

    Audra, thank you for sharing this great overview. While everyone is aware of warts or psoriasis some of the other diseases you list are certainly more uncommon. Good thing is that they all seem to be treatable!

    • Stefanie ZuckerStefanie Zucker says:

      Hi John, thanks so much for your comment (and apologies for the delay in responding…we had a little tech glitchand your comment got missed…so sorry it’s taken so long)! You’re right…there are so many other diseases that are uncommon, but have fairly simple solutions. We appreciate your pointing that out. Thanks again for stopping by…and please come visit us again! (we’ll do our best to avoid tech glitches and be much more prompt in our reply) 🙂

  9. Henry ford says:

    Hi Sir,
    Thank you for such information which contains different treatments of skin.
    We know that some skin diseases and problems occurs which are so difficult to treat.
    But after reading this article ,people will take a valuable material related to skin care and the diseases.
    I would like to say thanks for sharing such information.

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