Skin rashes are common in babies and children.
- Most rashes are harmless and go away on their own.
- The causes of skin rashes tend to differ in babies compared to older children. Many viruses can cause a rash in addition to other symptoms such as fever and cough. The rash often varies in shape and size, usually appearing as blotchy red spots commonly affecting most of the body. They sometimes appear quite quickly and usually last for only a few days. These rashes are generally ‘non-specific’, which means that it is often hard to say which specific virus is the cause.
When should I worry and what should I do?
Call 999 or go to A&E now if your child:
Develops swollen lips, a swollen tongue and is struggling to breathe
Develops a rash that does not disappear with pressure (the ‘Glass Test’)
Is confused or very lethargic (difficult to wake)
Becomes pale, mottled, and feels abnormally cold to touch
Is going blue around the lips
Too breathless to talk, eat or drink
Becomes extremely agitated (crying inconsolably despite distraction)
It can be difficult to see a change in skin colour in brown and black skin. Check the lips tongue palms of hands and soles of feet for colour changes
Call 111 or ask for an urgent GP appointment if your child:
Develops a painful rash
Develops a blistering rash
Develops a rash affecting more than 90% of their body
Has had chickenpox in the past few days and is now getting more unwell with a high fever and spreading red rash
Develops red lips or a red tongue
Develops significant skin peeling
If your baby is under 3 months old with a rash and fever
Is 3 to 6 months of age with a temperature of 39°C / 102.2°F or above (but fever is common in babies up to 2 days after they receive vaccinations)
Continues to have a fever of 38.0°C or above for more than 5 days
You can also contact your nearest Walk-in Centre.
If none of the above symptoms are present:
Most children with fever and rash can be safely managed at home
If you think that this is a worsening of your child’s eczema, optimise your child’s eczema treatment or contact their GP or practice nurse
What should you do?
- Some rashes require no medical input and simply get better by themselves without any treatment. This includes viral rashes. If your child has a fever, you may want to lower their temperature using paracetamol (Calpol) and/or ibuprofen.
- Some rashes require you to keep your child off from nursery or school. This includes chickenpox and scarlet fever.
- However, certain conditions such as eczema and impetigo may require treatment from your GP.
Where should you seek help?
- If it is non-urgent, speak to your local pharmacist or health visitor.
- Or contact you GP practice and a qualified member of the clinical team will assess if your child needs to be seen urgently. For an urgent out-of-hours GP appointment, call NHS 111.
- You should only call 999 or go your nearest A&E department in critical or life threatening situations.