Should Your Child See a Doctor?
Rash – Localized and Cause Unknown
- Rash on one small part of the body (localized or clustered)
- Red or pink rash
- Small spots, large spots or solid red
- Includes localized areas of redness or skin irritation
- Main cause: skin contact with some irritant.
Return to School
- Children with localized rashes do not need to miss any child care or school.
When to Call Your Doctor for Rash - Localized And Cause Unknown
Call 911 If…
- Your child is not moving or is too weak to stand
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
- Your child looks or acts very sick
- Purple or blood-colored spots or dots that's not from injury or friction
- Bright red area or red streak (but not sunburn)
- Rash area is very painful
- Age under 1 month old and tiny water blisters (like chickenpox)
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
- You think your child needs to be seen
- Severe itching or fever is present
- Looks like a boil, infected sore or other infected rash
- Teenager with genital area rash
- Lyme disease suspected (bull's eye rash, tick bite or exposure)
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
- You have other questions or concerns
- Blisters unexplained (EXCEPTION: Poison Ivy)
- Pimples (Apply antibiotic ointment until seen)
- Peeling fingers
- Rash lasts longer than 7 days
Parent Care at Home If
- Mild localized rash and you don't think your child needs to be seen
Home Care Advice for Localized Rashes
- Reassurance: New localized rashes are usually due to skin contact with an irritating substance.
- Avoid the Cause:
- Try to find the cause.
- Consider irritants like a plant (e.g., poison ivy), chemicals (e.g., solvents or insecticides), fiberglass, detergents, a new cosmetic, or new jewelry (e.g., nickel).
- A pet may be the intermediary (e.g., with poison ivy or oak) or your child may react directly to pet saliva.
- Avoid Soap: Wash the area once thoroughly with soap to remove any remaining irritants. Thereafter avoid soaps to this area. Cleanse the area when needed with warm water.
- Local Cold: Apply a cold wet washcloth or soak in cold water for 20 minutes every 3 to 4 hours to reduce itching or pain.
- Steroid Cream: If the itch is more than mild, apply 1% hydrocortisone cream (no prescription needed) 4 times per day. (EXCEPTION: suspected ringworm)
- Avoid Scratching: Encourage your child not to scratch. Cut the fingernails short.
- Contagiousness: Children with localized rashes do not need to miss any child care or school.
- Expected Course: Most of these rashes pass in 2 to 3 days.
- Call Your Doctor If:
- Rash spreads or becomes worse
- Rash lasts over 1 week
- Your child becomes worse
And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.
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- Cohen BA. Warts and children: Can they be separated? Contemp Pediatr. 1997;14 (2):128-149.
- Darmstadt GL. A guide to abscesses in the skin. Contemp Pediatr. 1999;16 (4):135-145.
- Friedlander SF. Contact dermatitis. Pediatr Rev. 1998;19:166-171.
- Honig PJ, Frieden IJ, Kim HJ, Yan AC. Streptococcal intertrigo: an underrecognized condition in children. Pediatrics. 2003; 112 (6):1427-1429.
- Tibbles CD, Edlow JA. Does this patient have erythema migrans? JAMA. 2007;297:2617-2627.
- Weston WL and Bruckner A. Allergic contact dermatitis. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2000.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
Copyright 1994-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.