Patricia Harris, M.D.

Patricia Harris, M.D., HealthyKids of Gardendale P.C. 

Summertime is here and with the warm weather comes another round of annoying rashes. Infants and children are frequent targets. What’s a parent to do?

A seemingly endless number of viruses with complex names abound: Adenovirus, Coxsackievirus, Roseola, Fifth disease, and Hand Foot and Mouth disease—not to be confused with Hoof and Mouth disease in cows—just to name a few. However, viruses are not the only offenders causing rashes. Staph bacteria can invade the skin and lead to a rash called “impetigo” and the ever-present Strep bacteria runs through our communities causing sore throats and sometimes a rough red sandpapery “scarlet fever” rash. Is there a way to avoid these culprits?

The old saying, “the best defense is a good offense” applies here. Strict hand washing when caring for children is the first step in preventing the transmission of illness. From an early age, kids should be taught good hygiene: washing their hands after going to the restroom and before eating, not sharing food or drinks with others, covering their mouth with their elbow when they cough or sneeze, and not touching their own face with unclean hands. The eyes, nose and mouth are the primary entry points into our bodies for most germs! We can only do so much to sanitize our homes, daycares, businesses, etc. Training your kids in disease prevention will go a long way in keeping them healthy!

What’s a parent to do when all your avoidance techniques fail and your kid gets sick anyway? Usually symptomatic treatment with fever-reducers and close monitoring for worsening is all that is needed for most viral illnesses. If your child has additional symptoms such as ear pain, eye pain or drainage, sore throat, neck pain, deep cough, or they are refusing to drink, have decreased urination, are acting lethargic, or showing other severe symptoms, then they should be seen by their doctor.

A general rule of thumb is that if your child’s fever responds to medication AND they remain perky and playful in-between fevers, and they DO NOT have any of the symptoms listed above, it is reasonable to monitor them at home, at least for a few days. There are a few exceptions to this rule: infants under 6 months of age, and children with chronic medical conditions may need to be seen by their doctor as soon as they show signs of illness.

Many viruses are no longer contagious by the time a rash appears, but it is always best to check with your child’s doctor to be sure. Benign rashes should blanch (disappear) for a second or two when light pressure is applied. If a rash will NOT blanch, this may be a sign of more severe disease and you should seek immediate medical attention for your child.

It is best to keep sick children at home until they are fever-free for at least 24 hours (without fever-reducing medication!) AND they feel well. If all parents followed this recommendation, there would be much less illness in our schools and daycares. Other parents and teachers will thank you for this!

...and then there are numerous environmental irritants which can cause rashes. Poison ivy is thriving in our backyards now. Mosquitos, chiggers, and scabies mites are just outside our doors. Spiders, ticks, and scorpions are found where you least expect them...

Look for more information on summertime rashes in an upcoming article.

Patricia Harris, MD

HealthyKids of Gardendale, P.C.

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