Kids and Rashes: Should You Worry??

Last updated on April 6th, 2015 at 11:41 am

little girl chicken pox and calamineOne of the most frequent reasons children are brought to their Pediatricians, the most frequent cause of parental concern, and sometimes the most difficult to diagnose,  rashes can be caused by a laundry list of issues.  For that reason rashes must be divided up by characteristics:  is it raised or flat, can you feel it, is it itchy, is it small bumps, large welts, water blisters, or big flat areas, is it painful, are there accompanying symptoms,  is it localized or generalized, what color is it, does it blanch to touch, and the list goes on.

Diagnosing the problem takes into consideration all of this plus an exam by your Doctor.

  • Some rashes are symptoms of a minor illness – most of the time viral, but a symptom nevertheless , just like runny nose and fever for a cold.  The presence of a rash does not necessarily imply that it is contagious although it can give an indication of cause and an idea whether the underlying illness might be contagious.  Certain rashes are terrible looking and the people who have them are very symptomatic; such as poison ivy with its open weeping sores – this rash contrary to popular opinion is not contagious and you cannot catch poison Ivy from person to person unless the first person has not yet washed off the resin from the poison ivy leaf on their skin that caused the problem.  [In short: both rash and illness “may” be contagious, but like any viral cold, are not typically serious]*
  • Certain rashes are characteristic of some more significant illnesses, such as the rash of Chicken Pox along with typical symptoms and course of illness.  In this case, although the vesicles in the rash of chicken pox holds the contaminated fluid- you still don’t catch the rash only.  Again, it’s not the rash that is contagious, but contact with someone with chicken pox can produce the illness and subsequent rash.  Small Pox, now nearly extinct has a typical course and rash.  And that list can go on and on.  [In short: the illness is contagious, the rash is only contagious in that it can cause spread of illness]*
  • The rashes we see in allergic responses are also not contagious.  [In short: uncomfortable, but not contagious]*
  • On the other hand the rash of impetigo (a skin infection with staph or strep) can be very contagious.  This eventually appears as weeping, scabbing lesions and is more common in the warm months.  [In short: rash itself is highly contagious]*
  • Probably the most common type of rash seen in the Pediatrician’s office is the fine pink, pimple like rash associated with mild viral illness.  Nothing can be done about these and they usually do not cause any symptom; they go away by themselves.  [In short: typically minor symptoms, neither rash nor illness is contagious]*

The bottom line is if your child is acting sick  and has a rash call your  Pediatrician  to weed through the various symptom and signs so as to get an idea as to causation.  If your child is not sick this can wait until the next day or two.

Note – there are a myriad of topics that would include the presence of a rash and if anyone has a particular area of interest and can let me know, I will narrow the post down next time.

 Photo credit: Auntie PCC license

About the Author

Dr. Joseph Skoloff received his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and his medical degree from The Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He is a past Vice Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics, a past Chairman of the Infection Control Committee at the Loudoun Hospital Center and a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. In his 41 years as a practicing pediatrician he has kept hundreds of kids and families healthy and safe and plans to continue to do so for years to come. Dr. Joe believes strongly in the combined power of parent and physician working together for the health of their children. He is an advocate for children everywhere and and adheres strongly to the principles of the American Academy of Pediatrics.Dr Joe is a member of the PedSafe Expert team

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