What is a rash?
Rashes are common among children. A rash can spread to a number of areas on your child’s body (widespread), or it may stay in one spot (localized). In most cases, a rash will turn your child’s skin pink or red. The skin will also appear slightly bumpy or scaly. Some rashes are associated with a particular cause, but most rashes are “non-specific” and do not have an identifiable cause.
Known causes of widespread rashes
- heat rash or sunburn
- viral illnesses such as chickenpox or measles or other viruses which may cause a non-specific pattern of rash
- fever over 39°C (102°F)
- allergic reaction to an antibiotic such as amoxicillin
For more details about amoxicillin rash, please see Ampicillin or Amoxicillin Rash: Caring for Your Child's Rash.
Known causes of localized rashes
- contact with a chemical substance or other substance that irritates the skin
- infections such as impetigo or ringworm
- diaper rash or drooling rash
For more details on types of localized rashes, please see Impetigo and Fungal Infections.
If your child’s widespread rash is the result of a virus, it will usually disappear within two to three days. If the rash does not clear after 48 hours or your child is feeling unwell, seek medical attention right away.
If your child’s widespread rash is the result of a fever, it will disappear when the fever drops. If the rash does not clear when the fever drops or your child is feeling unwell, seek medical attention right away.
In most cases, a localized rash does not need medical attention. Simply wash the affected area once with unscented, mild soap and warm water (not hot). This will clean the rash. From then on, wash the rash with water only. If the rash seems dry, apply hand lotion to the area twice a day. If the rash starts to itch, apply 1% hydrocortisone cream lightly to the area up to four times a day. Seek medical attention if the rash continues to spread or does not improve within two to three days.
When to seek medical attention
Make an appointment with your child’s doctor if:
- the rash turns a bright red and is tender to the touch
- the rash turns purple
- a widespread rash lasts longer than 48 hours
- a localized rash lasts for more than one week
- your child has a fever over 39°C (102°F)
- A rash that covers a number of areas of your child’s body is called a widespread rash.
- A rash that stays in one spot is called a localized rash.
- Causes of localized rashes include diaper rash, impetigo, and acne.
- Causes of widespread rashes include sunburn, allergic reactions to some antibiotics, and fever.