Rashes in babies and children

Many things can cause a rash in children, and they're often nothing to worry about.

Rash with fever
Rash with itching
Rash without fever or itching

Go to A&E or call 999 if your child has a rash and they:

  • have a stiff neck
  • are bothered by light
  • seem confused
  • are shaking uncontrollably
  • have a fever you can't control
  • have unusually cold hands and feet
  • have a rash that doesn't fade when you press a glass against it

These can be signs of meningitis.

See a GP if:

  • your child seems unwell, and has a rash and a fever

Use the information below to get an idea of what to do about a rash. But don't self-diagnose – see a GP if you're worried.

Rash with fever

Fever and red cheeks

Bright red spots on childs cheeks Credit:

John Kaprielian/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

A fever and a bright-red rash on both cheeks can be slapped cheek syndrome. Your child may have a cold, and the rash can spread to the body.

It usually clears up within a week. Children's paracetamol can bring down a fever.

Small spots and blisters

Small baby with red spots on face, arms and body Credit:

Phanie / Alamy Stock Photo

Chickenpox causes red spots that turn to blisters. They can be itchy. They eventually scab and fall off. Some children have a few spots, while others have them all over their body.

Blisters on hands, feet and in the mouth

Child's hand, with small, pink blisters on little finger Credit:

Scott Camazine / Alamy Stock Photo

Hand, foot and mouth disease is a common childhood illness that causes blisters on the hands and feet, and ulcers on the tongue. It also causes fever, and your child may have a cold.

It usually clears up in about a week. Children's paracetamol can bring down a fever.

Pink-red rash

Scarlet fever rash on a child Credit:

BIOPHOTO ASSOCIATES/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Scarlet fever causes a pink-red rash, which feels like sandpaper and looks like sunburn.

It usually starts with a swollen tongue, sore throat, headache and fever.

See your GP straight away if you suspect scarlet fever. It's treated with antibiotics.

Rash with itching

Rash caused by heat

Heat rash on the back Credit:

Disney Magic / Alamy Stock Photo

Heat and sweat can cause small red spots known as prickly heat or heat rash. It itches, so you may notice your baby scratching.

Heat rash should clear up without treatment.

Scaly red skin or cracked skin

Eczema on the knees Credit:

DR P. MARAZZI/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Skin that's itchy, red, dry and cracked may be eczema. It's common behind the knees, elbows and neck, but it can appear anywhere.

Speak to your GP if you think your child has eczema.

Raised itchy spots

Hives on the knee Credit:

Loisjoy Thurstun / Alamy Stock Photo

A raised, itchy red rash (hives) can appear as an allergic reaction to things like stings, medicines or food.

It usually clears up within a day or two.

Speak to your GP if your child keeps getting this type of rash. They may be allergic to something.

Call 999 if there's swelling around their mouth.

Itchy round rash

Ringworm rash on the skin Credit:

Robert Read / Alamy Stock Photo

An itchy ring-like rash can be ringworm.

Ask your pharmacist for a cream or lotion to treat ringworm.

Speak to your GP if it appears on your child's scalp, as it may need to be treated with medicine.

Rash without fever or itching

White spots in babies

White spots on a baby's nose Credit:

Jack Sullivan / Alamy Stock Photo

Small white spots (milia) often appear on a baby's face when they're a few days old. They usually clear up within a few weeks and don't need treatment.

Red, yellow and white spots in babies

Red spotty rash on a baby's face Credit:

David Gee 4 / Alamy Stock Photo

Raised red, yellow and white spots (erythema toxicum) can appear on babies when they're born. They usually appear on the face, body, upper arms and thighs.

The rash can disappear and reappear.

It should clear up in a few weeks without treatment.

Pink or skin-coloured spots

Molluscum contagiosum rash Credit:

DR P. MARAZZI/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Small, firm, raised spots that can appear anywhere on the body are common in children and known as molluscum contagiosum.

Treatment isn't recommended because the spots clear up on their own, although it can take more than a year.

Red patches on a baby's bottom

Nappy rash on a baby's bottom Credit:

Family / Alamy Stock Photo

Nappy rash can be red patches on your baby's bottom or around the whole nappy area.

The skin may look sore and feel hot. There may be spots or blisters. It can make your child feel uncomfortable or distressed.

You can buy cream from your pharmacy to help clear it up.

Call 111

If you can’t speak to your GP or don’t know what to do next.

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