Some childhood rashes are easier to avoid than others, but some simple tips – including at-home remedies – can prevent rashes and soothe symptoms. Keep reading for valuable information about preventing and treating common childhood rashes.
Although some childhood rashes may seem impossible to prevent, others can be avoided with some common sense tips. What’s the easiest, most effective way to prevent rashes? Wash your hands, and teach your kids to wash their hands too. According to WebMD, touching infected objects or people passes 80% of germs. To prevent spreading an illness, wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water. No soap? Keep an instant hand sanitizer close at hand. Keep reading for specific ways to prevent, treat and soothe common childhood rashes.
- Prevention: Viral rashes often spread from contact with saliva (when someone coughs), mucus from your nose (when someone sneezes) or fluid from sores on the skin. So, washing hands should be your first prevention strategy. In addition to keeping your hands clean, encourage your family to follow these guidelines:
- Don’t share cups, utensils or plates: Since viral rashes often spread from saliva, sharing the same cup or spoon with someone who is sick directly transmits the virus to your child.
- Disinfect surfaces: Keep doorknobs, counters, clothes, towels, toys and any other objects that a sick child has touched clean and disinfected.
- Avoid contact: Hugging and kissing is an easy way to spread viral rashes. Since your child may be contagious before the rash appears, watch for flu or cold-like symptoms.
- Be polite: Covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze is an effective (and polite!) way to avoid spreading viruses.
- Get vaccinated: Vaccines are available for some viral rashes including measles, rubella and chickenpox. Some children, especially those who are allergic to the ingredients used to make the vaccine, should not be immunized. If you’re unsure if your child should receive a vaccine, consult your doctor.
- Treatment: Antibiotics aren’t effective against viruses, because they only treat bacteria. So, if your child contracts a viral rash, treating the illness means easing symptoms until it runs its course. Here are some ways to do that:
- Itchy rash: Some viral rashes itch – including chickenpox and fifth disease. Relieve itchiness with an antihistamine cream or ointment, or by giving your child an oatmeal or baking soda bath. Don’t let your child scratch, as this could lead to a secondary infection. To help ease the temptation to itch, have your child wear gloves.
- Fever or pain: Reduce a fever or ease joint pain by giving your child ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Remember, don’t give aspirin to a child under 20, as it has been connected to Reye’s syndrome.
- Mouth sores or sore throat: To relieve painful mouth sores from hand-and-foot-and-mouth disease or the sore throat from roseola or measles, treat your child with numbing throat sprays or mouthwashes. Cold treats – including popsicles – can help relieve soreness. Since this pain can make drinking uncomfortable, monitor your child for signs of dehydration.
- Secondary infections:Some viral rashes, such as measles, have a high rate of secondary infections such as pneumonia or ear infection. Since some secondary infections are bacterial, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics to treat them.
- Prevention: Strategies to prevent bacterial rashes depend vary, because each rash is transmitted in a different way.
- Impetigo is contracted when bacteria infects a cut or scrape on the skin and is spread when your child scratches open sores. Prevent impetigo by trimming your child’s nails short, and do your best to keep him or her from scratching. If your child has an open sore or cut, clean it with soap and water. Then, cover the injury with an antibacterial ointment or cream and a bandage. Also, if one child in your house becomes infected with impetigo, keep his or her linens, towels and washcloths separate from healthy children.
- Scarlet fever spreads in the same ways as many viral rashes, through coughing or sneezing. To prevent scarlet fever, make sure to wash your hands, and follow the same prevention tips listed above for viral rashes.
- Lyme disease happens when an infected tick bites and attaches to your skin, injecting bacteria into the bloodstream. To prevent your children from contracting Lyme disease, follow these tips:
- Avoid wooded or tall grassy areas, or stay in the middle of a trail.
- Wear light-colored clothing, and cover up with long pants, long-sleeved shirts, closed-toed shoes and a hat.
- Do a thorough tick-check as soon as you get home. Removing ticks within a few hours of attaching decreases the likelihood of contracting Lyme disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it takes 36 to 48 hours of a tick being attached for someone to contract Lyme disease.
- Always use insect repellent. Keep in mind that repellents with more than 30% DEET are unsafe for children and provide no additional protection. Don’t use insect repellents on infants less than two months of age, and never spray near the eyes or mouth. To apply an insect repellent to a child’s face, first spray the repellent into your hand, and then rub it onto his or her face. As soon as you return home, wash your child’s skin with soap and water to remove any leftover repellent.
- Treatment: Like viral rashes, if there’s any pain or fever associated with a bacterial rash, treat it with ibuprofen or acetaminophen. However, unlike viral rashes, a doctor may prescribe oral or topical antibiotics to treat bacterial rashes.
- Prevention: Since the fungus that causes rashes such as athlete’s foot and jock itch grows in moist, warm areas of the body, you can prevent them by keeping these areas cool and dry. Here are additional tips for preventing fungal rashes.
- Athlete’s foot: To prevent athlete’s foot, keep your toenails short and clean. In public bathrooms or locker rooms, be sure to wear sandals.
- Jock itch: To stop jock itch, make sure to clean and thoroughly dry the groin area after a bath or shower. Also, avoid tight underwear or clothing. If your child tends to get jock itch frequently, your doctor may suggest treating the skin with zinc oxide or an antifungal product to prevent outbreaks.
- Ringworm: To avoid contracting ringworm, make sure to wash hands often and thoroughly. Also, your child shouldn’t share a brush, hat or clothes with anyone else. If your pet has ringworm, bring it to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Then, clean and disinfect surfaces in your home with a solution of bleach and water.
Other common rashes: Eczema and hives
- Prevention: Preventing rashes like eczema and hives has more to do with stopping flare-ups than actually preventing the illness itself, because the causes of these two rashes can be complex. The source of eczema may have a genetic link, but doctors are still unsure as to what exactly causes the disease. Hives can be caused by allergies or reactions to environmental irritants. For parents who are trying to avoid outbreaks, here are some helpful tips:
- Eczema: Eczema flare-ups often happen when skin is dry, so maintaining moist skin is a key to prevention. Fewer, shorter baths and showers with warm water (not hot!) may help. Also, use gentle, hydrating cleansers like Babo Botanicals Oatmilk Calendula Moisturizing Baby Shampoo and Wash. After patting your child’s skin dry with a towel, apply a mild baby lotion or oil to lock in hydration.
- Hives: Since hives often occur after contact with an allergen, keep your child away from foods or other irritants to which he or she is allergic. Write down any foods that cause a reaction, and make sure to read food labels to avoid those ingredients.
- Treatment: For some rashes, such as bacterial rashes, a treatment is available to eliminate the rash. But, for others, no such treatment exists. In both cases, remedies are available to help ease your child’s symptoms.
To treat itching caused by eczema, your doctor may prescribe a steroid ointment or recommend an over-the-counter medication such as Obagi Nu-Derm Tolereen. Although hives can often go without treatment, cases that last for an extended period may require an antihistamine to reduce symptoms. For both eczema and hives, the following remedies may soothe itchy skin and shorten the flare-up:
- Soothe with a bath: Give your child an oatmeal or baking soda bath (cool water for hives, warm water for eczema). Then, wrap the skin in cool, moist bandages.
- Avoid added irritation: Encourage your child not to scratch their skin or have them wear gloves. Avoid dressing your child in scratchy, tight clothes, especially those made with wool. Steer clear of any irritants that may trigger another outbreak, such as cleansers with dyes or fragrances or any known allergens.
Some rashes may look the same, but not every rash responds to the same treatment. Because of this, you should always contact your doctor for a diagnosis before treating any childhood rash at home. Also, remember, if your child’s rash does not improve or worsens, contact your doctor as soon as possible to avoid a secondary infection.
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