Children Skin Problems and Treatment

Childhood skin complaints may be caused by an infection, an allergy, or a response to very high or very low temperatures. Most of them are minor and can easily be treated. Rashes occur with a variety of complaints, some of which are serious; if you are at all worried about a rash, you should consult your child’s doctor.

Chapped Skin

Chaps are little cracks in the skin, sometimes raw and deep. Exposure to the cold makes skin dry and prone to chapping, particularly at the extremities where circulation is poor – hands, fingers, and ears. Damp skin around the lips chaps, too. Failing to dry properly after washing and washing so frequently that the skin’s natural oils are removed can both contribute to chapping.

Symptoms Chapped skin has a dry, cracked appearance. If the cracks are deep, there may be some bleeding and pain, and if they become infected, you may notice pus and inflammation.

Treatment Unless chapped skin becomes infected or is very slow to heal, you can probably solve the problem with home remedies. Apply rich emollient creams to your child’s skin, use lip balm on his lips, avoid using soap (use baby lotion instead), and dress him warmly in cold weather. Avoid icy winds and sudden changes in temperature. Infected chapped skin should be treated by your child’s doctor.

Cold Sores

The virus responsible for cold sores is called herpes simplex and is a relative of chicken pox and shingles. All sufferers from cold sores carry the virus in their skin, where it lies dormant in the nerve endings. Some children have a single attack of the virus; in others, however, cold sores come and go for years. The virus is transmitted through close contact. A rise in skin temperature due to intense sunlight, flu, a cold, stress, or overexertion can reactivate the virus and result in a cold sore. Cold sores are not Usually harmful, except near the eye, where they can cause ulceration of the conjunctiva (the transparent covering of the white of the eye and inner eyelids).

Symptoms There is usually warning of an attack in the form of a hot, itchy, tingling sensation for 24 hours before the cold sore appears. The skin becomes red and then tiny blisters appear, usually around the lips or the nostrils. The blisters enlarge, join up, and then burst, revealing the classic cold sore. Fluid from the blisters forms a crust, which gradually shrinks and falls off as the skin underneath heals. This takes 10-14 days. While a cold sore is at the blister and weeping stage, it will be very painful and your child may complain of pain over the whole side of the face, earache, and pain on chewing because the facial nerves are inflamed by the virus.

Cold sores are very contagious, and your child can spread them to other parts of his face by touching them with his fingers.

Treatment Your pharmacist can recommend or your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic cream if the cold sore becomes infected. Discourage your child from touching his face, kissing other children, and sharing his washcloth and towel for the duration of a cold-sore attack. Applying petroleum jelly may prevent a cold sore from cracking and bleeding.

It’s helpful to identify the triggers that bring on cold-sore attacks. For instance, if it is sun, your child should wear a high SPF sunblock around his lips during the summer and a brimmed hat.


Babies and children are extremely vulnerable to sunburn, which can result after what might seem to be a brief exposure to the sun. Sunlight is strongest between 10:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M., and the danger of overexposure exists even during the winter and on overcast days.

Babies under six months should be kept out of direct sunlight and protected by clothing, brimmed bonnets, and canopies on their strollers or carriages. After six months of age, protect your child with a waterproof and fragrance-free sunscreen rated SPF 15 or greater, clothing, and hats with brims.

In the near term, a sunburn can be painful and excessive sun exposure can lead to heatstroke. In the long term, severe sunburns and repeated sun exposure can develop into skin cancer later in life, particularly in fair-skinned people.

Symptoms The affected skin is hot, inflamed, red, and tender. Sometimes the skin looks “bubbly” and blistered. After a few days, the dead skin will flake and peel, at which point your child may complain of itchiness. If sunburn is severe, particularly on the back of the neck, look out for symptoms of heat­stroke: fever, vomiting, and dizziness, and if they are present, seek medical help immediately.

Treatment Immediate relief can come from applying cool, wet sheets or towels to the affected areas. Acetominophen elixir may also be helpful to keep your child’s temperature normal. Treat sunburn skin very gently; let your child go without clothes indoors; if he is going outdoors, dress him in loose­fitting clothes and apply a high SPF (15 or above) sunscreen to all exposed areas. A hat that covers the nape of the neck should be worn. Your child’s doctor may prescribe an anti-inflammatory cream for sunburn. Do not apply any creams or lotions unless the doctor advises it.


When a hair follicle becomes infected, a red, pus­filled swelling can result. Boils are rarely serious if they are treated appropriately, but they can cause pain, particularly if they are in the armpit or buttocks. Boils rarely heal by themselves, and can form a carbuncle – a cluster of boils with many heads.

Symptoms Initially the skin is red and swollen. As yellow pus collects beneath the skin, the swelling increases. Boils usually appear singly, but because hair follicles are so close together, it’s possible for infection to spread and for a crop of boils to appear.

Treatment Consult your pediatrician if your child has a boil. The doctor may prescribe an antibiotic and/ or warm soaks, or may lance the boil to drain the pus away, which provides immediate pain relief. Crops of boils require antibiotics and investigation of the cause. Don’t try to squeeze a boil at home; this will spread infection and be very painful.


The bacteria streptococcus and staphylococcus, which are present in the nose and on the skin, can cause a skin infection around the nose, mouth, earn and elsewhere. Impetigo is characterized by a bright yellow, crusted rash or small pus-filled blisters; it is highly contagious, so you should keep your child away from school until it has been treated.

Symptoms The first sign of impetigo is reddened skin. This is followed by the appearance of blisters full of pus; when they burst they leave patches of oozing skin. The fluid dries into a yellow crust. Impetigo spreads rapidly if left untreated.

Treatment Take your child to see the doctor, who will prescribe an oral or cream antibiotic and dressings to keep the skin covered. Be meticulous about hygiene – wash away crusted areas with warm water and pat dry with a paper towel. Use disposable wash­cloths and towels to protect the rest of the family from infection.


This is an inflammation of the skin that occurs in response to stress, to contact with something that the child is allergic to (contact dermatitis), or very occasionally to light (photodermatitis). Seborrheic dermatitis affects the face, especially the nostrils, eyebrows and eyelids, ear canal, and scalp – all areas where there are a lot of sebaceous glands.

Symptoms Dermatitis is a red, itchy, and scaly rash, sometimes with blisters. In contact dermatitis, the rash usually appears where the skin has been in contact with the allergen. Photodermatitis appears as clusters of spots or blisters on skin that has been exposed to the sun. Seborrheic dermatitis shows up as yellowish as well as red scales.

Treatment If dermatitis is severe, the doctor may prescribe a weak steroid cream and, for seborrheic dermatitis, a special shampoo. Keep the affected areas clean and do not scrub or rub. Gentle cleansing with a nondrying soap is best. Discourage scratching and keep your child’s fingernails trimmed.

Infantile Eczema

This inflammatory skin condition is caused by an inherited tendency plus a trigger factor such as as infection or an allergy. Occasionally it is simply a responce to stress. The type of eczema that usually affects children is atopic eczema, and it appears between 2 and 18 months of age. Children who have atopic eczema may tend also to have seborrheic dermatitis.

Symptoms Skin affected by atopic eczema is raw, dry, scaly, red, and itchy, and there may be small white blisters, like grains of rice, that burst and weep if scratched. Itchiness is the most irritating symptom of eczema, driving your child to scratch and causing sleeplessness.

Treatment If you suspect your child has eczema, see your pediatrician, who may prescribe an anti­inflammatory cream and antihistamines in order to curb the itching and to combat any allergy. If the skin has become infected, antibiotics may be necessary. The doctor will also try to identify the cause of the eczema: a pet, laundry detergent, or a particular food or group of foods, for example.

Keep contact with water to a minimum. When you do bathe your child, put baby oil in the bath. Stop using soap, and make sure that your child’s clothes are thoroughly rinsed and contain no trace of laundry detergent or fabric softener. Minimize your child’s contact with potential allergens, use emollient cream on his skin, and keep his fingernails short so that he cannot damage the skin by scratching. Use cotton fabrics, never wool.

Heat Rash

A hot, poorly ventilated environment in which the skin can’t cool encourages heat rash; the body responds by sweating excessively and the sweat glands become enlarged and red. Heat rash is quite common in babies as their sweat glands are immature and can’t switch off as ours can.

Symptoms A faint red rash appears on parts of the body that get hot easily and where sweat glands are most numerous. Typical areas include the neck, the face, and skin folds such as the groin, elbows, and behind the knees.

Treatment Don’t overdress or swaddle your baby. Bathe him in tepid water and pat him dry, leaving his skin slightly damp. Be sure the temperature of his room is not too high and keep air circulating by opening a window. Consult your child’s doctor only if the rash has not cleared up after 12 hours, to exclude other possible causes.

Warts (Verrucae)

Warts may occur singly or in great numbers. They are caused by viruses; most disappear without treatment after two years. There are more than 30 types of wart virus. Children usually get warts on the hands or areas subject to injury, such as the knees, and on the soles of the feet (plantar warts). Although mildly contagious, warts are not at all serious.

Symptoms Common warts, such as those found on the hands, appear as firm, flesh-colored or brown growths. They are composed of dead skin cells. Although they may look unsightly, common warts. Although they may look unsightly, common warts should not be painful unless cracked and bleeding. The flat plantar warts, however, may be very painful because of the pressure on the foot.

Treatment Unless warts are painful or unsightly, don’t worry since they may disappear spontaneously. They are not very contagious, so the risk of their being passed on to other children is minimal. If you do decide to treat a wart at home, use one of several products available over the counter in pharmacies. Never use these on the face or the genitals, as they are too harsh and can scar delicate skin. If you consult your doctor, he may refer your child to a dermatologist to have the warts removed. If you notice warts or bumps on your child’s genitals, consult your pediatrician right away.