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What You Need to Know About Childhood Viral Rashes

iStock_000009557561_SmallWhen it comes to our little ones, most of us consume information like chocolate – the more the better. And when it comes to skincare, we’ve already read about the common issues: diaper rash, eczema, sun protection and maybe a handful of others. But what about those viral rashes? Rashes with really scary names like Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease?   Those are probably less familiar. Read on for a run down on what you need to know about common childhood viral rashes.



Roseola, or Exanthum subitum, is caused by the human herpes virus type 6 and often affects children from six months to two years old. The virus has two telltale signs: a high fever and a rash that shows up after the fever goes away.

Who:    Children ages 6 months old to 2 years old

Cause:    Human herpes virus type 6

Symptoms:     Children with roseola usually have a high fever – often around 102 degrees or higher – that lasts for approximately three days. After the third day the fever diminishes and a rash appears on the child’s chest or stomach. The rash then can spread to the rest of the body and may last for just a few hours or a few days.

Treatment:    When you see the signs of roseola, try to treat it right away. Age-appropriate doses of acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be given to control the fever. Aspirin should not be used as aspirin used in children with viral illnesses can lead to Reye’s syndrome, which can lead to liver failure and even death.

Prevent dehydration by providing your child with regular fluids like breast milk, formula, Pedialyte, popsicles, or ice chips. To calm the rash, you can use an over-the-counter 1% hydrocortisone cream. Take your child to the doctor if the fever does not subside or if your child is dehydrated or lethargic. Take your child to the emergency room if an uncontrolled fever leads to a seizure.

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Slapped cheek or Fifth’s Disease

 Slapped cheek is also known as Fifth’s Disease or erythema infectiosum and is caused by Parvovirus B19. Children may experience achiness and a bright red rash on their cheeks.

 Who:    Children between 3 and 10 years old

Cause:     Parvovirus B19

Symptoms:   The symptoms for Fifth’s Disease include fever, headaches, achiness, and stomach aches. A bright rash usually appears on the cheeks giving a “slapped cheek” appearance. In older kids, there may be a lacy-like rash affecting the arms, legs, chest and back.

Treatment:     To treat the rash, use an over-the-counter 1% hydrocortisone cream. Immunosuppressed children, children with sickle cell anemia and pregnant women with unknown exposure to parvovirus should see a doctor right away if they think they have been exposed to parvovirus.

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Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease usually appears as blisters in the mouth, inside the cheeks and on the gums. It may also show up as a rash on the hands, feet, body, and buttocks.

 Who:     Children 1 to 4 years old

When:    Common in the summer to early fall

Cause:    Enteroviruses, specifically coxsackie virus

 Symptoms:    The rash appears as blister-like lesions in the mouth, specifically the throat, tongue, inside the cheeks, gums, and hard palate. Moist red bumps can also appear on the palms and soles and a general rash may also appear on the trunk and buttocks.  This rash often also comes with a fever.

Treatment:   Over-the-counter 1% hydrocortisone cream can be used to calm the rash. Give age-appropriate doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen to manage the fever. Aspirin should not be given to any viral rash including Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease as it can lead to Reye’s syndrome. Reye’s syndrome can lead to liver failure and even death.

Because of the pain from the blisters, children may lose their appetite and not eat or drink. Push fluids as much as possible with icy treats like popsicles and fluids with added electrolytes like Pedialyte. If your child refuses to eat or drink, see your doctor, as the doctor may be able to prescribe something to help with the pain. If your child becomes dehydrated and lethargic, take your child to the doctor or even the emergency room.

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Now you know everything you need to know when it comes to childhood viral rashes. On to more consumption. Where’s the chocolate?

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