What Are the Most Common Causes of Rashes on Children?

Meshell Powell

Skin rashes on children are a relatively common occurrence, and most of these rashes do not cause significant health concerns. Some of the most common types of rashes on children include chicken pox, measles, and roseola. Fifth disease, scarlet fever, and impetigo are also frequently diagnosed in children. Treatment depends on the individual illness, so a doctor should be seen in order to ensure an accurate diagnosis. Vaccines are available to help prevent some of these diseases.

A rash.
A rash.

Chicken pox is one of the most common causes of contagious rashes on children and is caused by a virus known as varicella-zoster. Symptoms often include fever, sore throat, and a rash made up of small, itchy blisters. These blisters usually rupture after a few days and leave behind a crusty scab. Although chicken pox does not cause serious health concerns for most children, a vaccine is widely available that may reduce the risks of contracting this childhood disease. Treatment for chicken pox focuses on using oral and topical medications to relieve individual symptoms, as this disease will naturally run its course over a period of a couple of weeks.

A girl with chicken pox.
A girl with chicken pox.

Measles and roseola are possible causes of rashes on children. Fever, cough, and nasal congestion are often the first symptoms of measles, with a rash consisting of small brown bumps appearing a few days after a person becomes infected. No specific treatment is needed for measles, and a vaccine is available to aid in prevention. Roseola normally begins with a high fever, upset stomach, and respiratory disturbances before the appearance of small pink bumps on the arms, legs, and trunk of the body. Over-the-counter medications are used to treat the fever associated with roseola, but no other medical treatment is usually necessary.

Fifth disease causes symptoms that mimic those of the common cold and culminate in a facial rash once the child is no longer contagious. Scarlet fever is basically strep throat accompanied by a rash and is not contagious. Impetigo is a type of skin infection that involves the development of a rash composed of small blisters that rupture and crust over. While fifth disease does not usually require medical treatment, scarlet fever and impetigo are among the types of rashes on children caused by bacteria and are typically treated with the use of prescription antibiotics. It is virtually impossible for the average person to accurately determine the cause of the rash, so a doctor should be consulted for an accurate diagnosis and individualized treatment plan.

When a rash accompanies a fever, a doctor should be consulted.
When a rash accompanies a fever, a doctor should be consulted.

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Discussion Comments


My children use to get rashes from playing with animals. We love pets, so keeping them away was never an option. When the kids kept their hands clean and used itch-relief creams when rashes developed, they were easy to keep under control.


Sometimes children get what my grandmother use to call heat rash. This occurs after long, hot days playing and sweating. A cool shower, aloe vera gel, and a dusting of baby powder all work well together to control and prevent this type of rash.


Some other common causes of rashes on children come from exposure to plants such as poison ivy, poison oak, and sumac. These rashes can range in seriousness from minor itches to severe outbreaks that require medical attention.

When avoiding these plants fails, children usually respond well to anti-itch creams. If the rashes persist, spread significantly, or cause a rise in temperature, it is time to seek medical attention.

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