Eight Common Summertime Skin Rashes in Children | Whittier, CA | PIH Health

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Published on August 08, 2022

Eight Common Summertime Skin Rashes in Children

Photographs of children having fun outsideProtecting your child's skin is a year-round concern, but it's especially important to be vigilant about skin safety during the summer months when so much skin is exposed and vulnerable. More frequent outdoor activity during this season can lead to skin irritation for some kids.

“Be sure to talk with your pediatrician about any rash that you're unsure about, especially if it is making your child feel miserable, doesn't clear up quickly, or if it shows signs of infection,” says Bo Kong MD, PIH Health pediatrician. “Some rashes can also indicate a more serious problem, so it is important to know when to seek emergency care.”

Below are eight of the most common summer skin rashes in children and tips on how you can help identify and soothe each one.

1. Heat Rash

Heat rash, also known as prickly heat, looks like patches of small pink or red bumps or blisters under clothing or spots where skin tends to fold such as the on the neck, elbows, armpits, or thighs. Heat rash forms when sweat gland pores become blocked and perspiration can't escape. It will usually clear up on its own as the child cools down. Wash the area and gently dry it. Let the skin breath without clothing for a while until the rash clears up. In order to prevent it, try to keep your child cool whenever possible. Dress them in light, breathable clothing.

2. Poison Ivy & Other Plant Rashes

Many children get extremely itchy, red, streaky, patchy rashes after being in or near plants such as poison ivy, oak or sumac containing a sticky oil called urushiol. If these come in contact with the skin, wash area with soap and water for at least 10 minutes. Apply calamine lotion or 1% hydrocortisone cream to reduce itching. Keep your child's fingernails trimmed and discourage scratching. Talk with your pediatrician if the rash is severe and/or isn't going away, if the rash is on your child's face or groin area, or if you notice signs of infection (i.e., fever, redness, swelling beyond the poison ivy or oak lesions).

3. Eczema

Eczema is a chronic condition common in children that causes patches of dry, scaly red skin. Dryness caused by air conditioning and pressurized planes during summer travel, as well as overheating, sweating and chlorine in swimming pools can trigger eczema. Clean child's skin with mild soap and water, pat dry with a towel, and apply fragrance free moisturizer to damp skin to lock in moisture. Use mild detergents and fabric softeners on clothing. Keep your child's fingernails short and smooth, and discourage scratching which can make the rash worse and lead to infection. Talk with your pediatrician if allergies could be a cause of the eczema.

4. Insect Bites & Stings

Insects such as bees, wasps, mosquitos, fire ants and ticks can cause itching and minor discomfort where they prick the skin. For some children, insect bites and stings can cause a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis—which includes a rash or hives and life-threatening symptoms such as airway swelling. (For children with a known allergy to insect bites and stings, it is important to have an emergency care plan in place). To prevent bug bites and stings use family-friendly insect repellant products that contain concentrations of no more than 30% DEET, and make sure to wash the insect repellent off with soap and water when your child returns indoors. To treat bites or stings, remove stinger or tick if present and clean the stung/bitten area with rubbing alcohol and first aid ointment. Apply cold compress to reduce swelling and calamine lotion or 1% hydrocortisone cream to help relieve itching.

5. Swimmer's Itch

When kids swim in lakes, oceans, and other natural bodies of water they can pick up parasites that burrow into the skin and cause small red bumps. The bumps usually appear on areas not covered by the swimsuit. Rub the skin with a towel to dry it off as soon as possible after getting out of the water, as the parasites begin to burrow into the skin as it dries. Shower off, if possible. The rash will go away on its own within a week, but symptoms can be eased with home treatments such cool compresses, Epsom salt or oatmeal baths, and calamine lotion or 1% hydrocortisone.

6. Ringworm

Ringworm or tinea is a contagious infection caused by a fungus that thrives in warm, damp conditions and can appear on a child's scalp or other parts of the body. It looks like a red skin rash that forms a ring around normal-looking skin. Talk with your pediatrician as antifungal medication may be needed. Treat any pets that may have the fungus, or family members who may share symptoms. Tell childcare providers and playmates' parents to watch for symptoms. Keep shared areas clean, wash hands often and don’t allow your child to share personal items.

7. Hot Tub Rash

Swimming in pools or hot tubs that are not clean enough can cause bacteria to infect the hair follicles, resulting in a pimple-like rash. This can also occur from wearing a damp or wet swimsuit that was not washed or allowed to dry properly after being worn in a pool or hot tub.

Applying warm compresses to the affected area will help to clear up the infected pores. Anti-itch cream can be applied if necessary. Prevent this rash by keeping kids out of hot tubs (it is recommended that children avoid hot tubs for other health reasons as well) and only allowing them to swim in clean pools.

8. Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease

Some viral illnesses, such as hand, foot and mouth disease, are more common during summer. Outbreaks are most common in younger children and can spread in childcare centers, preschools, and summer camps. Caused by Enterovirus coxsackie, the illness starts with a fever, sore throat, and runny nose—much like the common cold—but then a rash with tiny blisters may appear on the body, usually:

  • In the mouth
  • Fingers or palms of hands
  • Soles of feet
  • Buttocks

But can be anywhere on the body. Symptoms are the worst in the first few days but are usually gone within a week (the rash can last longer). Call your pediatrician if your child's fever lasts more than 3 days or if they are not drinking fluids. For fever and pain, the pediatrician may also recommend acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Tell childcare providers and playmates' parents to watch for symptoms of the illness.

Fortunately, many summertime rashes clear up quickly on their own and will generally respond to home care. However, you should seek emergency care if the rash is accompanied by any of the following:

  • Prolonged Fever
  • Significant Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Skin peeling away or blisters in the mouth
  • Streaks of red
  • Tightness or swelling in the throat
  • Abnormal bleeding or bruises under the rash

Visit PIHHealth.org/Pediatrics to learn more about pediatric care at PIH Health, or visit PIHHealth.org/Physicians to find a pediatrician.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.