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Rash - Localized and Cause Unknown

Definition

  • Rash on one small part of the body (localized or clustered)
  • Red or pink rash
  • Small spots, large spots or solid red
  • Includes localized areas of redness or skin irritation

Causes

  • Main cause: skin contact with some irritant.
  • Other common causes: 7 rashes that you may be able to recognize are listed above in "Related Symptoms." If you suspect one of them, go there. If not, use this guideline.

Localized Versus Widespread Rash: How to Decide

  • Localized means the rash occurs on one small part of the body. Usually, the rash is just on one side of the body (e.g., occurring on 1 foot). Exceptions: Athlete‚Äôs foot can occur on both feet. Insect bites can be scattered.
  • Widespread means the rash occurs on larger areas (e.g., both legs or the entire back) or most of the body surface. Widespread rashes always occur on matching (or both) sides of the body. Many viral rashes occur on the chest, abdomen and back.
  • The causes of widespread rashes usually are blood-borne (e.g., caused by viruses, bacteria, toxins, food or drug allergies that enter the blood stream).
  • The causes of localized rashes are usually something that has contact with the skin (e.g., chemical, allergen, insect bite, ringworm fungus, bacteria, irritants).
  • This is why it's important to make this distinction.

Return to School

  • Children with localized rashes do not need to miss any child care or school.

See More Appropriate Topic (instead of this one) IF

For an itchy rash:
  • Athlete's Foot (itchy pink rash between the toes)
  • Insect Bite
  • Poison Ivy
  • Ringworm (round pink patch, slowly increasing in size)
For a non-itchy rash:
  • Newborn Rashes
  • Diaper Rash
  • Impetigo (Infected Sores)(small sores covered by soft yellow scabs

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For more information, click here.

Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
Last Reviewed: 6/1/2011
Last Revised: 8/1/2011
Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker
Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

    When To Call

    Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If

    • Not moving or too weak to stand

    Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If

    • Your child looks or acts very sick
    • Purple or blood-colored spots or dots that's not from injury or friction
    • Bright red area or red streak (but not sunburn)
    • Rash area is very painful
    • Age under 1 month old and tiny water blisters (like chickenpox)
    • You think your child needs to be seen urgently

    Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If

    • You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
    • Severe itching or fever is present
    • Looks like a boil, infected sore or other infected rash
    • Teenager with genital area rash
    • Lyme disease suspected (bull's eye rash, tick bite or exposure)

    Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

    • You have other questions or concerns
    • Blisters unexplained (EXCEPTION: Poison Ivy)
    • Pimples (Apply antibiotic ointment until seen)
    • Rash grouped in a stripe or band
    • Peeling fingers
    • Rash lasts longer than 7 days

    Parent Care at Home If

    • Mild localized rash and you don't think your child needs to be seen

    Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For more information, click here.

    Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
    Last Reviewed: 6/1/2011
    Last Revised: 8/1/2011
    Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker
    Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

    Care Advice

    1. Reassurance: New localized rashes are usually due to skin contact with an irritating substance.
    2. Avoid the Cause:
      • Try to find the cause.
      • Consider irritants like a plant (e.g., poison ivy), chemicals (e.g., solvents or insecticides), fiberglass, detergents, a new cosmetic, or new jewelry (e.g., nickel).
      • A pet may be the intermediary (e.g., with poison ivy or oak) or your child may react directly to pet saliva.
    3. Avoid Soap: Wash the area once thoroughly with soap to remove any remaining irritants. Thereafter avoid soaps to this area. Cleanse the area when needed with warm water.
    4. Local Cold: Apply a cold wet washcloth or soak in cold water for 20 minutes every 3 to 4 hours to reduce itching or pain.
    5. Steroid Cream: If the itch is more than mild, apply 1% hydrocortisone cream (no prescription needed) 4 times per day. (EXCEPTION: suspected ringworm)
    6. Avoid Scratching: Encourage your child not to scratch. Cut the fingernails short.
    7. Contagiousness: Children with localized rashes do not need to miss any child care or school.
    8. Expected Course: Most of these rashes pass in 2 to 3 days.
    9. Call Your Doctor If:
      • Rash spreads or becomes worse
      • Rash lasts over 1 week
      • Your child becomes worse

    And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms. 

    To find a pediatrician, click here.

    Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For more information, click here 

    Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
    Last Reviewed: 6/1/2011
    Last Revised: 8/1/2011
    Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker
    Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

    Photos

    Diaper Rash

    This photo shows a red diaper rash in the area under the diaper. Skin has become shiny.

    Any diaper rash that lasts longer than a couple days can become secondarily infected with Candida (yeast). Note the red spots ("satellite lesions") outside the main area of redness.

    If a yeast infection is suspected, Lotrimin cream (over-the-counter) should be applied 4 times daily.

    Source: LMS Inc.
    Copyright 2000-2012. Self Care Decisions, LLC. Used by Permission.

     

    Fifth Disease

    There is redness and puffiness of both cheeks; this is the first sign of Fifth's Disease.

    Source: CDC PHIL
    From the CDC's Public Health Image Library, ID#4510, in the public domain.

     

    Impetigo of Left Cheek

    This photograph shows the typical appearance of impetigo. Impetigo is Often covered by a soft, yellow-brown scab or crust.

    Source: Barton Schmitt
    Copyright Barton Schmitt MD, Self Care Decisions LLC. Used by Permission.

     

    Impetigo of the Elbow

    Copyright: Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

    This is a public domain image file from Wikimedia Commons. Wikimedia is a freely licensed media repository.

     

    Shingles on Chest 

    Copyright: Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

    This is a public domain image file from Wikimedia Commons. Wikimedia is a freely licensed media repository.

     

    Shingles on Neck

    Copyright: Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

    This is a public domain image file from Wikimedia Commons. Wikimedia is a freely licensed media repository.

     

    Ringworm Rash on Leg

    Copyright: 2000-2012. Self Care Decisions, LLC. Used by Permission.

     

    Ringworm Rash on Arm

    Notice that the area is round and pink. It has a raised rough scaly border. The ring slowly increases in size. It is usually slightly itchy.

    Source: LMS Inc.
    Copyright 2000-2012. Self Care Decisions, LLC. Used by Permission.

    Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information. For more information, click here.

    Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
    Last Reviewed: 8/1/2010
    Last Revised: 9/18/2010
    Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker
    Copyright 1994-2011 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

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