Skin and Body Rashes


I’ve been meaning to continue with some simple medical advice and home care that can hopefully help answer some questions and keep your kids home and healthy! Some of the previous health related posts for kids included fevers, ear aches, stomach aches, coughs and colds, and stomach bugs.  I haven’t posted any in a while and still had a few I wanted to share… so the first is rashes. There is so much to say and they can be so complicated, but hopefully this post will offer some clarity!

Rashes… where to start! There are so many varieties reasons for rashes and most of the causes are unknown!

There are two main categories of rashes:

1) Allergic Reaction – Some sort of reaction to an allergen. The allergen could be as simple as pine sap, dust, a fragrance in lotion, additive or chemical in laundry detergent, or 1001 other reasons or the reaction could be due to something ingested, inhaled, or touched.

A few examples of these resulting from ingestion can be from my own kids! Aisling gets a small pimply rash all over her body when she eats soy, and a scaly rough bright red rash when she eats egg whites. Tonchi on the other hand has very rough dry patches on his legs, elbows, knees and buttocks that itch if he has gluten products. Each of these rashes look very different and it took some time to figure out the causes as you may imagine. I’m just thankful we have started to discover what has been causing these rashes in my kidos!

Most reactions due to inhalation are usually related to seasonal allergies or fragrances. These are the most common, but obviously there are other reasons as well. Seasonal allergies usually display symptoms of congestion, watery eyes, sneezing, and sore throat, but can also have rashes as well. Fragrances rarely cause rash due to inhalation, but certainly to contact.

Rashes related to coming in contact with an allergen is usually referred to as contact dermatitis. These rashes usually resolve on their own once the allergen is removed and the allergic response wears off. Good examples of these would be rashes from body care creams, poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, stinging nettles, and even some foods.

An acute allergic reaction is commonly manifested with hives that cause an intense itching that sometimes is described as internal itching as well. Hives are raised welts that almost look like mosquito bites, but there are A LOT more of them. They usually start on the abdomen and then move outwards from there. Once they are on the face or there is swelling to the mouth, tongue, lips, or throat it is important to be quickly evaluated by a health provider. If the allergic reaction doesn’t reach the face or airway a few doses of benadryl will usually reduce the histamine response until the allergen is out of your system.

Thankfully I’ve never had to give my kids benadryl. It is a great drug for reducing antihistamine responses and to head off acute reactions. If the swelling does progress to the face and/or airway calling 911 is appropriate. At that point benadryl will not be quick, effective or strong enough and a dose of adrenaline is needed.

Thankfully, most rashes don’t proceed to this point, but I thought I had better note that it can happen and it’s best to know what to do. Also, most rashes don’t need evaluation by a Dr. Most of the time they don’t know what they originate from anyway and often resolve on their own.

2) Infection– This could be bacterial, viral or fungal. Each of these look different and respond differently to treatment. Sometimes these rashes can be related to a disease process which would be a systemic infection. Some of these rashes could be from fevers, or a strep body rash when they have strep throat, or scarlet fever and many others.

Topical bacterial rashes will often respond to an antibiotic cream like neosporin, bacitracin or triple antibiotic. Sometimes these are resultant from an open wounds, boils, ingrown hairs or just exposure. Most of these will resolve on their own, but there are some super bugs out there that start small and then need massive doses of strong antibiotics to get rid of them. Home treatment for a few days is fine, but if they continue to worsen or don’t improve quickly then it ought to be evaluated.

Viral rashes have no treatment except to relieve the symptoms. Good news is they do resolve on their own, but bad news is there is really no way to know for sure if a rash is bacterial or viral. Viral rashes most often appear after some type of viral illness like the flu or stomach bug. Other viral illnesses that have rashes that are included in their symptoms would be chicken pox, fifths disease, hand, foot and mouth disease, roseola and others.

Fungal and yeast rashes are not as common, but do exist. The most common fungal rash is ringworm. Contrary to its name it isn’t a worm at all, but a topical fungal infection that can be treated by over the counter (OTC) antifungal creams (as long as it isn’t on the scalp). Yeast rashes are usually manifest as a diaper rash and I will cover that more at a later date.

As I have previously mentioned, most rashes relating to viral or bacterial infection or topical contact will resolve on their own without treatment. Below is a list of reason that a child (or adult) should be evaluated if the rash isn’t resolving or worsening.

Reasons to have it evaluated:

  • Not improving with home treatment within a few days
  • Increasing redness or red streaking away from the wound site
  • Pus oozing from the area
  • Area feels hard, warm to touch and/or fever
  • Child appears or is acting ill

Reasons to call 911:

  • Sensation of throat closing
  • Chest tightness/difficulty breathing
  • Swelling to mouth, lips, tongue, throat
  • Benadryl has been taken and the reaction continues to rapidly get worse.
  • Seizure
  • Loss of consciousness

Home treatment for rashes:

  • Cool compress
  • Cool shower
  • Oatmeal bath (1 cup of oatmeal in a cheese cloth to soak like a tea bag in the bath water)
  • Baking soda bath (add about 1 cup of baking soda to bath water)

Can also apply plantain remedy to topical rashes to help pull out the allergen and lessen the reaction.

Do you have any other remedies that help rashes that could be added to the list? If so, please share!

Medical Disclaimer: This information is meant to inform and not diagnose or treat illness or disease.  Before trying any of the ideas posted please research for yourself in order to make an educated decision.  Also, consult your doctor if tying to treat medical conditions.

Photo Credit – It’s hard to tell, but this cute little girl has chicken pox all over her back. Poor thing!



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