Rashes in babies and children

Finding a rash on your baby’s or child’s skin can be pretty alarming, and may have you rushing to the GP’s surgery before you can say impetigo!

As a mother of two, I still like to get a rash checked by a doctor, even if it is one I’ve seen several times before, and while the temptation is to assume that a rash can mean meningitis, it is comforting to know that there are multiple other, much less serious causes of rashes in babies and children.

First, there is plain old nappy rash, which children can be particularly prone to developing during illness or teething, when a very acidic deposit can burn sensitive skin in the few seconds it takes to grab the changing bag. Check and change your baby regularly and ask daytime carers to do the same. Also, aim for some nappy-free time during the day if possible.

If your child does develop nappy rash, soothe first with clean, warm water – I like to sit mine in the bath for a few minutes to soak away any remnants that might still be causing pain. Then smother the area with an antiseptic nappy cream such as Sudocrem.

Children are also prone to heat rash, especially when we overzealous mums wrap them up in too many layers! This appears as tiny red bumps or sometimes blisters and can occur when children get hot and sweaty, usually clearing quickly.

Then there are rashes associated with infection. Rashes can be associated with specific viruses such as measles, chickenpox or the hand, foot and mouth virus, or with bacterial infections such as impetigo, all of which your doctor will be able to identify due to their classic appearance.

Rashes in babies and children

And, of course, there is meningitis, which can be bacterial or viral, and is strongly associated with a characteristic and distinctive rash and requires immediate treatment.

Children can also develop what is known as a “non-specific viral rash”. Between them, my two children have been diagnosed with a non-specific viral rash five times now, none of which have ever needed treatment, and all of which disappeared on their own within a few days, as the doctor assured me they would. But even having seen this type of rash several times before, I would always prefer to get it checked by a doctor

Many other illnesses can cause a rash in children as well as in adults, some of which are serious but many of which are not. If your child develops a rash, it is always best to get it checked out in case it is a sign of a developing infection that require treatment.

The major warning signs of meningitis are listed below. If you think your child has meningitis, see your GP immediately or go to your nearest hospital A&E.

* Becoming floppy and unresponsive, or stiff with jerky movements

* Becoming irritable and not wanting to be held

* Unusual crying

* Vomiting and refusing food

* Pale and blotchy skin

* Loss of appetite

* Staring expression

* Very sleepy

* Fever

* Rash