Recently, I got an email from my day care provider. "Just to notify everyone, there has been an outbreak of hand, foot and mouth disease in your child’s classroom.” When I arrived to pick up my daughter, I encountered a gaggle of squawking parents all frantically Googling the illness on their phones. “Is this related to Mad Cow?” I heard one of them ask.
The answer is no, and, like many baby or toddler skin conditions, it isn’t something parents need to agonize over. Here are some common skin problems your little one may encounter, and how they should be treated.
1. Baby Acne
What it looks like: Baby acne looks similar to adult acne, so for most of us, it looks pretty familiar and is an unpleasant memory of the past! Raised red bumps, sometimes with a white head, appear on the skin, primarily on the face.
How did my child get it?: Typically, this acne is blamed on hormonal changes, just like when it appears in adolescents.
Treatment: Avoid oily lotions on your baby’s face. Wash gently once a day with soapy water and pat dry. If it persists for more than three months, see a doctor.
What it looks like: The child has red, raw, weeping skin in the creases and folds of the body.
How did my child get it?: Moisture can remain trapped in the creases and folds, causing irritation. It can be further irritated by rubbing or movement.
Treatment: Avoid using powders to absorb moisture. It can actually trap more moisture against the skin and further irritate it. Try a zinc-based ointment instead. If the rash is suddenly worse, it could be an infection. Seek medical attention in this case.
3. Prickly Heat
What it looks like: Prickly heat or heat rash looks like small red bumps surrounded by an area of red skin and typically appears on clothed parts of the body.
How did my child get it?: The bumps occur as a result of a hot, humid environment and excessive sweating. The ducts from the sweat glands become blocked.
Treatment: Make sure your little one is moved to a cool, dry environment such as an air-conditioned room. Bathe the child in cool water, and dress them in loose-fitting, breathable clothing. Be sure to hydrate!
What it looks like: Seborrhea, also known as cradle cap, resembles a red, itchy rash that produces dandruff.
How did my child get it? It’s caused by a yeast-like organism, but the full cause is currently unknown. Hormones may be to blame.
Treatment: Typically, in infants, cradle cap goes away by the age of 6 months. However, it can be treated with mild baby shampoo and gentle brushing. A little warm mineral oil can also help.
What it looks like: This virus causes a red rash to develop on the palms or the soles of the feet, sometimes coupled with mouth sores. The rash can sometimes turn into blisters. Early indicator symptoms can include a low fever and sore throat.
How did my child get it?: It is a contagious, though mild, virus, spread like any other through contact and fluids.
Treatment: Stay the course. There is no treatment for the virus itself, but over-the-counter painkillers can be used to manage discomfort. It should clear up within seven to 10 days (no freaking out necessary!).
What it looks like: Hives generally appear as red, itchy, raised welts on the skin. They can indicate a place where the child has come in contact with something they’re having an allergic reaction to, but they can also come and go on different parts of the body.
How did my child get it?: Hives are usually an allergic reaction to something that has come in contact with the skin. Typical offenders are laundry detergents or other allergens like pets or foods. However, some hives are caused by autoimmune responses where there is no allergen present. The immune system creates an unnecessary response and attacks the skin.
Treatment: Most hives can be treated with topical and oral antihistamines. However, if your child is not responding to antihistamines, it could be an autoimmune issue. Consult your doctor if you believe the hives were not necessarily “caused” by anything and your child is not responding to OTC treatment. They may need a course of steroids or immunosuppressive medication.
7. Poison Ivy/Oak/Sumac
What it looks like: The skin is irritated, sometimes with raised bumps, blisters or streaks.
How did my child get it?: Poison ivy, oak, and sumac are plants that produce an oil that causes these skin reactions. Your child may have had skin-to-skin contact with the oil, but the oil can also rub off on clothing or pet fur. Consequently, the oil can transfer. Familiarize yourself with what these plants look like so you can teach your child to avoid them.
Treatment: For a small percentage of the population, poison ivy can be very serious. Some people are extremely allergic to the plant oil. If your child has trouble breathing or swollen eyelids, seek medical attention immediately. Most children, however, can be treated by washing the area with warm water and applying calamine lotion.
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The skin is the largest organ in the human body, and it can be easy for parents, especially first-timers, to blow a skin problem out of proportion. Keep calm, research for pictures, and when in doubt, call your doctor!