Skin problems in children

There are a number of skin conditions in infants and young children, including cradle cap, molluscum, acne, roseola, and fifth disease.

milk crust

Cradle cap (also called infantile seborrheic dermatitis) is a rash that begins as scaling and redness on an infant’s scalp. It is not an infectious or contagious skin condition. Seborrheic dermatitis is common in infants, usually beginning within the first few weeks of life and slowly resolving over a period of weeks or months. The condition is rarely uncomfortable or itchy.

What causes cradle cap?

The precise cause of the rash is not known; however, it may be the result of the mother’s hormonal changes during pregnancy and the influence on the baby’s sebaceous glands.

How are cradle caps treated?

Mild cases of cradle cap can be treated with a mild shampoo. You should wash your hair more frequently than before. This, along with gentle brushing, will help remove scales. Medicated shampoos (dandruff shampoos containing sulfur and 2% salicylic acid) can loosen the scales, but these shampoos can cause irritation and should only be used after consulting a pediatrician. Remember that these shampoos are not tear-free, so extra care should be taken to avoid contact with the eyes. Additional medications, such as topical steroids, may be prescribed to treat scaling and redness.

How to prevent cradle cap?

In most cases, frequent shampooing with a mild baby shampoo can keep cradle cap from coming back once it’s gone. A stronger medicated shampoo may be needed in some cases, but ask your doctor for advice on using these shampoos. Most children are out of cradle cap by the age of 6 months.


Roseola is a viral disease that usually affects children aged 6 months to 2 years. It is usually characterized by several days of high fever, followed by a flat or raised pinkish-red rash that appears on the child’s trunk and spreads all over the body as the fever strikes.

What causes roseola?

Roseola can be caused by two common and closely related viruses: human herpes virus (HHV) type 6 and type 7. Both of these viruses belong to the same family as herpes simplex viruses. However, HHV-6 and HHV-7 do not cause the cold sores and genital herpes infections that HSV can cause. Roseola is contagious and is spread by tiny drops of fluid from the nose and throat of infected people. Someone who has not yet developed symptoms often spreads the infection.

What are the symptoms of roseola?

In most cases, a child with roseola develops mild upper respiratory illness, followed by a high fever (often above 103 degrees Fahrenheit) for three to seven days. The child may be fussy or irritable during this time, have a poor appetite, and have swollen lymph nodes in the neck or back of the head.

In many cases, the high fever suddenly stops, and a rash appears on the child’s body at about the same time. The rash consists of flat or raised pinkish-red spots and appears on the torso. The spots turn flesh-colored (or white) to the touch. Individual spots may have lighter areas or “halos” around them. Usually the rash spreads to the face, legs, arms, and neck. Seizures can be a complication of roseola.

How is roseola diagnosed?

To diagnose roseola, a doctor will take a history and do a thorough physical exam. A diagnosis of roseola is often uncertain until the fever subsides and a rash appears. As a result, the doctor may order tests to make sure the fever is not caused by another type of infection.

How is roseola treated?

In most cases, roseola does not require treatment other than trying to bring down a high fever. Antibiotics cannot treat roseola because it is caused by a virus.

Acetaminophen (like Tylenol) or ibuprofen (like Advil or Motrin) can help reduce your child’s fever. Avoid giving aspirin to a child because the use of aspirin in such cases has been linked to the development of Reye’s syndrome, which can lead to liver failure. A sponge or towel soaked in cool water can help comfort the child until the fever subsides. Ice, cold water, alcohol rubs, cold baths and fans should be avoided.

Encourage your child to drink clear liquids like water with ice cubes, children’s electrolyte solutions, sodas like ginger ale, or clear broth. Fluids reduce the risk of dehydration.

Call your child’s doctor if your child is lethargic, not drinking, or if you cannot control their fever.

Can roseola be prevented?

There is no known way to prevent the spread of roseola. The infection usually affects young children but rarely adults. Therefore, it is thought that exposure to roseola during childhood may provide long-lasting immunity against the disease. Repeated cases of roseola can occur, but they are not common.

The fifth disease

Fifth disease is a highly contagious disease caused by human parvovirus. The condition results in a rash that looks like the cheeks have been slapped.

Fifth disease usually affects school-aged children.

Fifth disease rarely causes harm to an unborn child, but pregnant women should be monitored in case they have not developed immunity to the virus.

What causes fifth disease?

The virus – Parvovirus B19 – that causes fifth disease is transmitted by sneezing or coughing. The disease is only contagious before the rash appears.

What are the symptoms of fifth disease?

Most children with fifth grade usually have minimal symptoms, if any, other than a rash. Symptoms of fifth disease include:

  • Flu-like and cold symptoms such as cough, runny nose, fever, general pain in joints and muscles, loss of appetite and irritability
  • A facial rash that feels like the cheeks have been slapped appears around days 7-10 of illness; the rash is not painful but is warm to the touch. It usually goes away after about a week, but can come back when it gets hot from sweating or exercising.
  • Rash spread to thighs and arms

Joint pain is sometimes observed in adults, rarely in children.

How is fifth disease diagnosed?

In most cases, a doctor can diagnose fifth disease by seeing the typical rash during a physical exam. To confirm the diagnosis, a blood test may be done to look for parvovirus antibodies.

How is fifth disease treated?

There is no cure for the disease itself, but medications like Tylenol or Advil can treat symptoms. Those with fifth disease should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.