At some point or another, all parents may deal with skin infections in children. Whether it’s your own children or the children of a loved one, you’ll want to know what signs and symptoms to look for and when it’s time to seek care from a pediatric dermatologist. So let’s start with reviewing the most common types of skin infections in children.
What Are the Different Types of Skin Infections in Children?
There are three types of skin infections in children: bacterial, fungal, and viral.
1. Bacterial Skin Infections
Bacterial infections occur when bacteria increase in a number enough that the body’s immune system responds. Scarlet fever and impetigo are the two most common bacterial infections found in children.
2. Fungal Skin Infections
Fungal infections usually affect your child’s skin, hair, nails, or mucus membranes. The most common fungal infection diagnosed in children is ringworm.
3. Viral Skin Infections
Children can obtain a viral skin infection through skin-to-skin contact with someone who has a viral skin infection or through contact with objects that have the virus on it. Common viral skin infections in children include fifth disease, chickenpox, and molluscum contagiosum.
5 Most Common Skin Infections in Children to Be Aware Of
1. Molluscum Contagiosum
Molluscum contagiosum will lead to rashes in children that have 10-20 lesions, though those with a weakened immune system may develop more. Lesions, and the virus, typically disappear within two years.
Molluscum contagiosum is contagious. In fact, this infection can spread from one part of the body to another. This virus spreads through direct contact and through contact with contaminated items. Once the lesions have disappeared, your child is no longer contagious.
While chickenpox typically goes away on its own within two weeks, it can make your child itchy and uncomfortable. Until your child’s blisters are crusted over, they are contagious. However, once they’ve had chickenpox, they won’t contract them again.
Although warts are generally harmless, they can spread to other areas of the body and to other people. Warts can develop at any age but are more common in children. While warts can go away on their own, it may take months or years for them to disappear.
Impetigo is a very contagious bacterial skin infection. It’s most common in children and athletes as it most often spreads through skin-to-skin contact. The bacteria that causes impetigo can enter the body through any open wound or by scratching eczema or chickenpox outbreaks.
Ringworm is part of a group of fungal skin infections named tinea. The fungi grows in warm, moist environments. Ringworm is one of the most common rashes in children as it spreads easily through skin-to-skin contact and contact with contaminated items.
Now that you know 5 of the common skin infections in children, let’s talk more about what to look for.
What Causes Pediatric Skin Infections?
Specific bacteria, viruses, and fungi cause different skin infections in children. Molluscum contagiosum is caused by the poxvirus. Chickenpox is caused by the varicella zoster virus. Different types of human papillomavirus cause different types of warts. Impetigo is caused by the bacteria staph and strep. And ringworm is caused by a mold-like fungus that lives on dead tissues found on the skin, nails, hair, and scalp.
Signs and Symptoms of Skin Infections in Children
Many skin rashes in children are a sign of a skin infection, but the exact type of rash to look out for will depend on what is causing the infection. Let’s break down the types of rashes, bumps, and more to look out for by each common skin infection found in children.
Molluscum contagiosum is most often diagnosed by the lesions that appear. These lesions are small, raised, and usually white, pink, or flesh-colored. A dimple or pit is often found in the center of these lesions. Molluscum lesions range in size, from the head of a needle to the size of a pencil eraser, and may become itchy, red, or swollen.
Although chickenpox cases have drastically decreased since the development of the chickenpox vaccine, it’s still important to know what to look for. When chickenpox first develops, you’ll notice a red and bumpy rash on your child’s skin. After a few days, this rash will turn into fluid-filled blisters that break open after one or two days. The final stage of chickenpox is when the blisters finally scab over.
How warts appear will depend on the type of wart your child has. Common warts are grayish-yellow or brown and have a rough surface. Plantar warts, which may be painful, grow on the soles of the feet or the palms of the hand. Flat warts, which are small and smooth, most often appear on a child’s face.
Filiform warts most commonly appear on a child’s eyelids, lips, face, or neck. They are small, long, and narrow. Periungual warts can cause painful fissures in the skin and appear as thick skin around the nails.
Non-bullous and bullous are types of impetigo, though non-bullous is the most common type. Non-bullous impetigo starts with one or more itchy sores that eventually crust over and lead to swollen glands. Bullous impetigo is characterized by cloudy or yellow fluid-filled blisters. While these blisters often burst and drain, they don’t typically scar.
If impetigo is left untreated, ecthyma can develop. Ecthyma is when the infection continues to spread deeper into the skin and becomes more serious. With ecthyma, painful blisters form and turn into deep, open sores with a thick crust that develops.
Ringworm gets its name from the ring-shaped rash that appears. The rash often becomes scaly or plaques with a raised, round border. The rash is itchy and, depending on where the ringworm appears, hair loss may affect the surrounding areas.
When to Contact Your Pediatric Dermatologist
It’s time to contact your pediatric dermatologist when a rash does not lessen or disappear following treatment or if it reappears. While many skin infections in children do not need treatment, they can make your child uncomfortable. Reach out to your pediatric dermatologist to help alleviate symptoms associated with skin infections.
Skin infections in children and treatment for these infections doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Contact your pediatric dermatologist to treat skin infections that range from itchy and harmless to extremely contagious.
One of the few pediatric dermatologists in Pittsburgh, Dr. Elizabeth Froelich, is not only board-certified in pediatric dermatology, she is highly trained and has developed skills to perform skin exams and procedures on even the youngest of children and babies.
Schedule an appointment now or contact our team at 412-429-2570 to schedule a pediatric dermatology appointment as soon as you notice signs of skin infection in children of any age. Dr. Froelich can help alleviate itchiness as well as treat the underlying cause. You can also follow us on Facebook to see what’s new in the world of dermatology.