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Common Skin Rashes in Children: Eczema,Molluscum Contagiosum, Chickenpox, Scabies and Impetigo | Max Hospital

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Common Skin Infections in Children Demystified

By Dr. Prateek Nagrani in Dermatology

May 17 , 2024 | 10 min read

Skin infections in children are a common concern among parents and caregivers, often sparking worry and confusion. From itchy rashes to painful blisters, navigating the landscape of childhood skin conditions can feel like venturing into a medical maze. However, when armed with knowledge and understanding, addressing these infections becomes more manageable. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the world of paediatric dermatology to shed light on the most frequently encountered skin infections. By unravelling the mysteries surrounding these conditions, we aim to empower parents and caregivers with the information they need to recognize, treat, and prevent these infections, ensuring the health and well-being of their little ones.

Impetigo

Impetigo is a highly contagious bacterial skin infection characterised by red sores that rupture and form yellowish-brown crusts. It often affects areas around the nose and mouth but can occur anywhere on the body.

Causes 

Impetigo is primarily caused by Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes bacteria. These bacteria can enter the skin through cuts, scrapes, or insect bites, leading to infection.

Symptoms

Common symptoms of impetigo include red sores that may burst and ooze fluid, forming a honey-coloured crust. The skin around the sores may be itchy or tender, and swollen lymph nodes may be present in severe cases.

Treatment

Treatment for impetigo typically involves topical antibiotics, such as mupirocin ointment, applied to the affected area. In some cases, oral antibiotics may be prescribed for more severe infections. It's essential to keep the affected area clean and dry to prevent spreading the infection.

Prevention

To prevent impetigo, encourage good hygiene practices, such as regular handwashing with soap and water. Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed to reduce the risk of bacterial infection.

Ringworm (Tinea Corporis)

Ringworm, also known as tinea corporis, is a fungal infection that causes circular, red, scaly patches on the skin. These patches often have a raised border and a clear centre, resembling a ring.

Causes

Ringworm is caused by various dermatophyte fungi, such as Trichophyton, Microsporum, and Epidermophyton species. These fungi thrive in warm, moist environments and can spread through direct contact with an infected person or animal or by sharing contaminated items.

Symptoms

Symptoms of ringworm include red, circular patches on the skin that may be itchy or inflamed. The affected area may become dry, scaly, or blistered, and hair loss can occur if the infection affects the scalp.

Treatment

Treatment for ringworm typically involves antifungal medications, such as topical creams or oral antifungal drugs. It's essential to continue treatment for the prescribed duration, even if symptoms improve, to prevent recurrence.

Prevention

To prevent ringworm, encourage good hygiene practices, such as avoiding sharing personal items like clothing, towels, and hairbrushes. Keep skin clean and dry, especially in areas prone to sweating, and avoid walking barefoot in public places like locker rooms or swimming pools.

Molluscum Contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is a viral skin infection caused by the poxvirus. It results in the formation of small, round, flesh-coloured bumps on the skin, often found in clusters.

Causes

Molluscum contagiosum is caused by the molluscum contagiosum virus (MCV), which is spread through direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person or by sharing contaminated items such as towels or clothing.

Symptoms

Symptoms of molluscum contagiosum include small, dome-shaped bumps on the skin that may be pink, white, or flesh-coloured. These bumps are typically painless but can become inflamed or itchy. Scratching the bumps can lead to further spread of the virus.

Treatment

Treatment for molluscum contagiosum may involve various approaches, including cryotherapy (freezing the bumps with liquid nitrogen), topical medications, curettage (scraping off the bumps), or laser therapy. In many cases, the infection resolves on its own without treatment.

Prevention

To prevent molluscum contagiosum, encourage children to avoid direct skin contact with individuals who have visible bumps. Teach them not to share personal items like towels or clothing, and encourage proper hygiene practices, such as regular handwashing.

Chickenpox (Varicella)

Chickenpox, also known as varicella, is a highly contagious viral infection characterised by an itchy rash of red spots that progress to fluid-filled blisters. It is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV).

Causes

Chickenpox is caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which spreads through respiratory droplets from an infected person's coughing or sneezing. It can also spread through direct contact with the fluid from chickenpox blisters.

Symptoms

Symptoms of chickenpox typically include an itchy rash of red spots that progress to fluid-filled blisters, fever, headache, and general malaise. The rash usually begins on the face, chest, and back before spreading to other parts of the body.

Treatment

Treatment for chickenpox focuses on relieving symptoms and preventing complications. This may include over-the-counter medications for fever and itching, antiviral drugs for severe cases, and maintaining hydration and rest.

Prevention

The best way to prevent chickenpox is through vaccination. The varicella vaccine is highly effective at preventing chickenpox and is routinely recommended for children. Avoiding close contact with infected individuals and practising good hygiene can also help prevent the spread of the virus.

Folliculitis

Folliculitis is an infection of the hair follicles, resulting in redness, swelling, and pustules (pimple-like bumps) around the affected follicles.

Causes

Folliculitis can be caused by bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus, or fungi, such as Candida. It can occur when hair follicles become irritated or damaged, allowing bacteria or fungi to enter and infect the follicles.

Symptoms

Symptoms of folliculitis include red, swollen, or pus-filled bumps around hair follicles. The affected area may be itchy or tender, and the bumps may crust over or become inflamed.

Treatment

Treatment for folliculitis depends on the underlying cause and severity of the infection. Mild cases may resolve on their own with proper hygiene and warm compresses. More severe or persistent cases may require topical or oral antibiotics or antifungal medications.

Prevention

To prevent folliculitis, encourage good hygiene practices, such as keeping skin clean and dry, avoiding tight clothing that may irritate hair follicles, and using clean towels and razors. Avoiding hot tubs, pools, or other potentially contaminated water sources can also reduce the risk of infection.

Scabies

Scabies is an infestation of the skin by the human itch mite (Sarcoptes scabiei). It causes intense itching and a rash with small red bumps and blisters, particularly in areas where the mites have burrowed into the skin.

Causes

Scabies is caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite, which is spread through prolonged skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. It can also spread through sharing contaminated bedding, towels, or clothing.

Symptoms

Symptoms of scabies include severe itching, especially at night, and a rash with small red bumps and blisters. The rash may appear in folds of skin, such as between fingers, wrists, elbows, or buttocks.

Treatment

Treatment for scabies typically involves prescription medications, such as topical scabicides (permethrin cream or lotion) or oral medications (ivermectin), to kill the mites and eggs. It's essential to treat all household members and close contacts to prevent reinfestation.

Prevention

To prevent scabies, avoid close contact with individuals known to have scabies and refrain from sharing personal items like bedding, towels, or clothing. Maintain good hygiene practices and wash bedding and clothing in hot water to kill any mites or eggs.

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD) is a viral infection caused by the Coxsackievirus. It leads to a rash on the hands, feet, and mouth, along with fever and sore throat.

Causes

HFMD is caused by several enteroviruses, most commonly the Coxsackievirus A16. It spreads through respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing, as well as through contact with feces, saliva, or fluid from blisters of an infected person.

Symptoms

Symptoms of HFMD include fever, sore throat, and a rash on the hands, feet, and mouth. The rash may consist of small red spots or blisters and can be accompanied by pain or discomfort, particularly when swallowing.

Treatment

Treatment for HFMD focuses on relieving symptoms, as it is a self-limiting illness that typically resolves on its own within a week or two. Over-the-counter medications may help reduce fever and alleviate discomfort, while maintaining hydration is essential, especially in children.

Prevention

To prevent HFMD, encourage frequent handwashing with soap and water, especially after using the toilet, changing diapers, or caring for an infected person. Avoid close contact with individuals known to have HFMD, and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and toys to reduce the spread of the virus.

Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the deeper layers of the skin and underlying tissue. It causes redness, warmth, swelling, and pain in the affected area.

Causes

Cellulitis is most commonly caused by bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus pyogenes. It can occur when bacteria enter the skin through cuts, scrapes, insect bites, or other breaks in the skin barrier.

Symptoms

Symptoms of cellulitis include redness, swelling, warmth, and tenderness in the affected area. The skin may feel tight or stretched, and there may be fever or chills. In severe cases, blisters or ulcers may develop.

Treatment

Treatment for cellulitis typically involves oral or intravenous antibiotics to kill the bacteria causing the infection. Elevating the affected area and applying warm compresses may help reduce swelling and discomfort. In some cases, surgical drainage may be necessary.

Prevention

To prevent cellulitis, encourage good wound care practices, such as cleaning cuts and scrapes with soap and water, applying an antibiotic ointment, and covering the wound with a clean bandage. Prompt treatment of skin infections and avoiding contact with potentially contaminated surfaces can also help reduce the risk of cellulitis.

Fungal Nail Infections (Onychomycosis)

Fungal nail infection, also known as onychomycosis, is a fungal infection of the nails, most commonly affecting the toenails. It leads to thickened, discoloured, and brittle nails.

Causes

Fungal nail infections are typically caused by dermatophyte fungi, such as Trichophyton rubrum or Trichophyton mentagrophytes. These fungi thrive in warm, moist environments and can enter the nails through small cracks or breaks.

Symptoms

Symptoms of fungal nail infection include thickened, discoloured, or yellowed nails that may become brittle or crumbly. The affected nails may also lift away from the nail bed, and there may be pain or discomfort.

Treatment

Treatment for fungal nail infections may involve topical or oral antifungal medications, such as antifungal nail lacquers, creams, or oral antifungal drugs. In some cases, surgical removal of the affected nail may be necessary.

Prevention

To prevent fungal nail infections, encourage good foot hygiene practices, such as keeping feet clean and dry, wearing clean socks and shoes, and avoiding walking barefoot in public places like locker rooms or swimming pools. Trim nails straight across and avoid cutting them too short to reduce the risk of injury or infection.

Yeast Infections (Candidiasis)

Yeast infection, or candidiasis, is a fungal infection caused by Candida yeast. It commonly occurs in moist areas of the body, such as the diaper area in infants or the mouth (thrush).

Causes

Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of Candida yeast, which can occur due to factors such as weakened immune system, antibiotic use, hormonal changes, or warm, moist environments.

Symptoms

Symptoms of yeast infections vary depending on the affected area but may include redness, itching, and inflammation. In the diaper area, yeast infections can cause a bright red rash with raised borders and satellite lesions. In the mouth, thrush presents as white patches on the tongue, gums, or inside the cheeks.

Treatment

Treatment for yeast infections may involve topical antifungal creams or oral antifungal medications, depending on the severity and location of the infection. It's essential to keep the affected area clean and dry and to follow healthcare provider recommendations for proper treatment.

Prevention

To prevent yeast infections, maintain good hygiene practices, such as changing diapers frequently and keeping the diaper area clean and dry. Avoid prolonged use of antibiotics unless prescribed by a healthcare provider, as they can disrupt the natural balance of microorganisms in the body and increase the risk of yeast infections.

Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis)

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic inflammatory skin condition characterised by dry, itchy, and inflamed skin. While not an infection, it is a common skin condition in children.

Causes

The exact cause of eczema is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Triggers for eczema flare-ups may include allergens, irritants, dry air, stress, or certain foods.

Symptoms

Symptoms of eczema include dry, itchy, and inflamed skin, along with redness, swelling, and cracking. The affected areas may develop patches of thickened or scaly skin, and scratching can lead to further irritation or infection.

Treatment

Treatment for eczema aims to manage symptoms and prevent flare-ups. This may include moisturising creams or ointments to keep the skin hydrated, topical corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, and antihistamines to relieve itching. In severe cases, oral medications or phototherapy may be necessary.

Prevention

While eczema cannot be cured, certain measures can help prevent flare-ups and manage symptoms. These include avoiding known triggers, such as irritants or allergens, keeping skin well moisturised, using mild, fragrance-free skincare products, and avoiding excessive bathing or harsh soaps that can dry out the skin.

By understanding the causes, symptoms, treatments, and prevention strategies for each of these common skin infections and conditions in children, parents and caregivers can better protect their children's skin health and well-being. Prompt recognition and appropriate management of skin issues can help alleviate discomfort, prevent complications, and promote overall skin health.


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