We often talk about a “baby skin” in reference to a soft and perfectly smooth skin. However, skin problems are very common in children at all ages.
Common Skin Diseases In Children
Viruses, bacteria, allergies or even genetic diseases often show up in children through the prism of the skin. This protects and allows exchanges between the inside and the outside of the body. “The skin is a much more complex organ than a simple envelope, it expresses itself through different reactions,” explains Dr. Anne-Marie Calza, dermato-pediatrician and medical consultant at the University Hospitals of Geneva (HUG). Reactions that often worry parents. Yet, a rash is rarely a sign of a serious problem. “These reactions are completely normal, and even necessary. Many skin diseases occur in childhood, a period when the immune system is forged, “says the dermatologist.
Rashes in children have various manifestations, with or without itching and fever. The reaction on the surface of the epidermis may take the form of pimples, vesicles, pustules, plaques or simply redness. But the diagnosis is not always clear, as Dr. Calza explains: “Parents often come to consult far too soon. They are then asked to monitor the evolution and come back to us if necessary, in order to refine the diagnosis.
Virus, bacteria or allergy?
Skin problems in children, also called dermatomes, can have various origins. They may be secondary to a virus (such as chicken pox, measles, etc.), or to a bacterium. For several years, there has also been a dramatic increase in so-called “atopic” diseases, caused by immune hyper-reactivity. They include several pathologies that often intersect: eczema, asthma, allergic conjunctivitis or hay fever. “The system gets carried away when the child is sick, when the weather changes, when there are things going on in his life, a growing tooth … it’s immune dysregulation,” says Dr. Calza. Surely there are also environmental causes, even if we do not have the formal proof. ”
Most common dermatological symptoms
Crusts on the skull
What it can be: A seborrheic dermatitis, also called “crusts of milk”, extremely prevalent in infants.
How it manifests: Yellowish crusts appear on the scalp, cheeks and eyebrows are red with dandruff, buttocks can be too. These events are not painful and usually appear between 6 weeks and 3 months.
What to do: To reduce crusts, Vaseline or emollient cream can be applied to the skull before gentle shampooing. Seborrheic dermatitis usually disappears spontaneously.
What it can be: Atopic eczema (or dermatitis). In Switzerland, almost 1 in 5 children is affected, a figure that has doubled in 30 years, without it being clear why. Psoriasis is also increasing in children. Less common than eczema, it is also correlated with immunity, and often appears after strep infection, such as angina.
How it manifests itself: In young children (from the age of 3-4 months), eczema is a chronic disease that causes the appearance of red, dry, itchy patches. They are often located on the face and folds of limbs. Eczema also makes the child irritable and disrupts his sleep.
What to do: There is no medicine for eczema, but creams can relieve relapses. If certain atopic diseases persist in adulthood, most of the time they heal spontaneously during childhood. Note that eczema is very rarely caused by an allergy.
An eruption accompanied by fever
What it can be: A viral disease such as chicken pox, measles, roseola, foot-hand-mouth syndrome, shingles or a bacterial disease such as scarlet fever.
How it manifests itself: sudden rashes in the form of pimples, redness, or papules localized or present on the whole surface of the body.
What to do: Most viral rashes last 3-4 days. But some – like chicken pox – can evolve over 2-3 weeks. High fever in children with any rash should be monitored carefully.
Caution: Purpura fulminans is characterized by the appearance of small purple or purplish spots, which do not disappear under the pressure of the finger, and which evolve rapidly. Accompanied by a high fever, it is an absolute emergency because it can be a sign of sepsis.
What it can be: An insect bite, a bacterial infection (such as an impetigo), fungal (like a mycosis) or parasitic (like scabies).
How it manifests itself:
– Mycosis in young children often occurs at the seat, a place of proliferation ideal for mushrooms. Oral or cream antifungal treatment is indicated.
– Impetigo is due to a staph that starts to secrete a toxin causing the appearance of oozing bubbles. It is favored by heat and humidity and therefore often occurs in summer. If it is undeveloped, a local antibiotic may be enough to treat it.
Scabies is usually in the form of red pustules, often in the palms. It does not disappear spontaneously and must be treated specifically.
Fever usually does not accompany these diseases, which are nevertheless highly contagious.
The procedure to follow: In addition to the appropriate treatment according to the type of disease, it is imperative to carefully disinfect all the elements that have been in contact with the lesions (clothes, bed linen, towels) in order to avoid contagion to the skin entourage.
When should you worry?
For an uninitiated eye, nothing is more like a button than another button. In their daily routine of examining their child’s skin, parents often needlessly alarm themselves: “I sometimes see people coming to the clinic after seeing four doctors for microscopic and totally benign things,” says Dr. Calza.
It is possible to take pictures of the rashes of your child, as soon as they appear, thinking to date them. This will be an additional element to facilitate the diagnosis of the physician or to monitor the course of the disease.
In case of sudden onset of pimples or red patches, the first thing to do is not to worry. On the other hand, a medical examination is systematically necessary in the event of an unexplained rash that does not pass after about 10 days or in the following cases: if the child has a fever, if he is no longer feeding, if it is subject to violent itching, if a purpura appears on its skin, if a lesion grows, bleeds or crusts.