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Five Common Rashes Amongst Kids and How to Spot Them

by Jess at HCD (follow)
With another disturbing outbreak of meningococcal occurring after Brisbane’s New Year celebrations, many parents in our local community are concerned about rashes and want to know more.



Whilst most rashes are harmless, others can point towards potentially life-threatening conditions and therefore, it’s useful to have an understanding of the spots most common amongst Aussie kids.

“Children have sensitive skin that is regularly exposed to new elements,” explains Dr Ryan Harvey from House Call Doctor. “Anything from the sun to different bacteria can trigger a skin reaction, so identifying these common rashes can be invaluable.”

1. Viral rashes

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Children can experience a range of viral rashes. Viral rashes can include everything from the measles to chickenpox or hand, foot and mouth disease. Vaccinations can prevent certain viral rashes, but there is a trick to telling these conditions apart.

“Viral rashes can typically be distinguished by red spots along the limbs or torso, which are not raised,” says Dr Harvey. “Often, viral rashes may occur after a respiratory infection, such as the common cold or cough.”

In most cases, viral rashes will improve without medical intervention. Over-the-counter medications can help alleviate the symptoms associated with viral rashes, such as fever or itching. However, parents should seek medical assistance if their child’s rash doesn’t subside within 2-3 days.

2. Eczema

“Eczema is a chronic condition that causes the skin to feel itchy, red, dry or scaly,” says Dr Harvey. “Children are mostly affected by the atopic eczema type, which often develops before their first birthday.”

Eczema can be itchy and painful but your child will normally grow out of the condition. CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons.


Atopic eczema can normally be distinguished from other rashes by examining the symptoms it presents with. Children who already suffer from asthma or hay fever are more likely to develop eczema, along with those who have a family history of allergies.

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Whilst eczema can cause long-term skin irritation, most children will grow out of the condition with time. Treatment can be managed on a case-by-case basis, as parents develop an understanding of their child’s specific eczema triggers.

3. Allergies

“When trying to determine whether a rash is an allergic reaction, it’s helpful for parents to consider what their child has recently eaten, places they have visited, or people they have contacted,” says Dr Harvey.

Allergic rashes occur after exposure to a new allergen, and can usually be distinguished by a red rash across the body. Typically, allergic rashes are flat or just slightly raised. Antihistamines or steroid creams can help alleviate any associated redness and itching.

A doctor can help assess potential allergens that may trigger a skin reaction for your child. CREDIT: House Call Doctor.


“In extreme cases, allergic reactions can interfere with breathing,” says Dr Harvey. “If this occurs, it’s crucial to seek immediate medical attention for your child.”

4. School sores

As the name suggests, school sores are incredibly common amongst school-age children. Otherwise known as ‘impetigo,’ school sores are a bacterial skin infection that can easily be passed from one child to another.

“Impetigo can be identified by red crusty to pustular lesions, which normally occur on the limbs,” says Dr Harvey. “Antibiotic creams are used to treat impetigo, but in severe cases, oral antibiotics may also be prescribed.”

A house call doctor can be especially useful for diagnosing impetigo, as the condition is highly contagious and requires isolation from daycare or school. The good news is that impetigo responds well to antibiotics, and children generally cease being contagious after 24 hours of treatment.

Impetigo typically appears on the arms, legs and even face. CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons.


5. Fungal infections

Fungal skin infections are very common in children, and encompass conditions such as tinea. Also known as ‘ringworm,’ tinea can be distinguished by its well-defined wheel shaped lesions. These lesions often have a pale centre, with an angry red periphery.

“Fungal skin and nail infections can be time-consuming to treat, as this involves several weeks of applying anti-fungal creams to infected areas,” says Dr Harvey. “Many anti-fungal creams are available without prescription, however a doctor should be consulted if symptoms persist.”

Meningococcal - The Tumbler Test

Meningococcal should be treated as a medical emergency as 10% of patients will die, whilst a further 20% will suffer from permanent disabilities. Dr Harvey is amongst a handful of doctors within Australia who has treated meningococcal in toddlers and witnessed its devastating impacts.

“A meningococcal rash is very sinister and spreads quickly. It’s essential that parents do not miss the signs and seek rapid medical assistance,” says Dr Harvey. “A meningococcal rash is coloured red to purple and can appear on the body, limbs or face.”

The 'tumbler test' is essential knowledge for every parent. If you suspect meningococcal, treat this as a medical emergency. CREDIT: Wikimedia Commons.


The meningococcal rash is non-blanching, which means even if you press on it, colour remains and the rash does not go pale. As such, ‘the tumber test’ can be helpful in distinguishing an innocuous rash from something more severe.

To use the ‘tumbler test,’ press a clean drinking glass against your child’s rash. Look through the glass to examine your child’s skin, if the rash disappears against the glass, it’s unlikely that your child has a severe condition. However if the rash is still visible, you should seek immediate medical attention for your child.

“When it comes to meningococcal, never take chances. If you are suspicious of your child’s symptoms, seek medical attention right away,” says Dr Harvey. “Meningococcal needs to be treated in hospital, using intravenous drugs to give children the best chance of survival.”

For further information about after-hours medical services available throughout Brisbane, visit House Call Doctor or phone 13 55 66. In an emergency, always phone 000 and ask for Ambulance, Police or Fire.
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