Itchy Rashes in Children

by A. Elizabeth Freeman

Red, angry-looking, itchy rashes are a part of childhood. While most rashes are irritating and painful, they usually clear up without problems and are not a cause for concern. Topical irritation, allergies, fungi and viruses are all common causes of itchy rashes in children. You can help your child avoid itchy rashes by learning what triggers the rash and helping her avoid the irritant or allergen. If the rash is caused by a virus, vaccinating your child will help prevent it.

Viral Rashes

Viruses can cause a number of itchy rashes in children, from chicken pox to Fifth disease to measles. Viral rashes are very contagious, so keep your child away from anyone who has not previously had the virus or hasn't been vaccinated. Fifth disease causes a bright red rash to appear on the child's face and a lacy rash on his arms, legs and trunk. Chicken pox causes itchy red bumps to appear all over a child's body. The measles rash is blotchy and starts on the chest. Most viral rashes clear up on their own, though you can apply a cream to soothe the itch and give acetaminophen if a fever accompanies the rash. Vaccinations can prevent your child from getting chicken pox, measles and several other viral rashes.

Fungal Rashes

Fungus causes rashes such as ringworm and some types of diaper rash. Ringworm can appear on your child's body or scalp. It looks like a circle, usually about the size of a quarter. The edge of the circle is scaly while the inner part is usually smooth. Ringworm may also be accompanied by a rash caused by an allergic reaction to the fungus, according to the Ask Dr. Sears website. You can apply clotrimazole, an anti-fungal cream, to the rash, until it clears up. If your child has a diaper rash that doesn't clear up with the usual treatment, it may be caused by Candida yeast. After gentle but thorough cleansing, apply an anti-fungal cream to the affected area to soothe the itch and help heal the rash.

Dermatitis

Atopic and contact dermatitis can also lead to itchy rashes. Some children may suffer from eczema, atopic dermatitis that causes a red, itchy rash to appear on the skin of wrists, inner arms, ankles and behind the knees, according to MayoClinic.com. Eczema rashes consist of small, red bumps or large areas of scaly, itchy skin. While the cause of eczema is unknown, it tends to run in families and can be controlled by topical creams ranging in intensity from over-the-counter to prescription steroids. Irritants or allergens also cause contact dermatitis, a rash that appears only on the area touched by the irritant. Dermatitis caused by an irritant usually consists of dry, red patches. Allergic contact dermatitis rashes tend to have red bumps and fluid-filled blisters. Some children experience contact dermatitis when chemicals such as detergents, cosmetics or deodorants touch their skin. Children may also have an allergic reaction to a plant such as poison ivy that leads to the rash. Other common allergens include latex, nickel, perfume and ingredients in cosmetics.

Hives

An allergic reaction usually causes hives, or bright red welts that appear most commonly on a child's trunk or extremities. Some viruses can also cause hives, according to Kids Health. Hives can appear suddenly and disappear just as quickly. While they are usually harmless, if they are part of a severe allergic reaction, your child may go into shock or have trouble breathing. If your child experiences hives that are caused by a known allergen, such as a certain food, you can prevent them by making sure he avoids that food. If he does suffer an outbreak of hives, antihistamines may help control the outbreak. Seek immediate medical attention for a rash that is accompanied by wheezing or other breathing problems.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease, caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, is a vector-borne illness transmitted mainly by tick bites, though mosquitoes, fleas and some spiders are less common carriers. The initial bite is often so small that it goes unnoticed, but left untreated, Lyme disease can cause serious damage to multiple organs, including the nervous system, heart and joints. The Lyme rash, known as erythema migrans, forms in red, round or ringlike solid, multiple spots. It can appear alone or be accompanied by headache, fever, joint pain and malaise. If your child has any combination of these symptoms and may have been exposed to an insect or spider bite, seek medical attention immediately to avoid progression of the disease to the internal organs or the nervous system.

Other Itchy Rashes

On a hot summer day, your child may develop a prickly heat rash, as a combination of sweat, heat and clothing irritates his skin. You'll usually find heat rash on your child's neck or low back, according to MayoClinic.com. You can soothe the itch by rinsing away the sweat and applying a cool, damp washcloth. Calamine lotion may also soothe the itch. A child may also get an itchy rash after he has been bitten by an insect. Soothe an insect bite s

About the Author

Based in Pennsylvania, A. Elizabeth Freeman has been writing professionally since 2007, when she started writing theater reviews for OffOffOnline.com and Theater Talk's New Theater Corps blog. Since then, she has written for Phillyist, TheNest, ModernMom and "Rhode Island Home and Design" magazine, among others. Freeman has an Master of Fine Arts in dramaturgy/theater criticism from CUNY/Brooklyn College.