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Is that rash serious?

Is that rash serious?

Rashes. They're oh-so-common in our little ones, aren’t they? While some rashes can signal something more serious, here's the good news: most rashes are caused by benign viruses and typically go away on their own. 


In this blog, we'll explore different types of rashes, when your child needs to see a doctor, tips for identifying serious rashes, and when to call an ambulance. The causes and management of all these different rashes will need at least one blog post each- so stay tuned!

Common Types of Rashes

Ezcema, or Atopic dermatitis
1. Ezcema (Atopic dematitis)
What it is: A chronic condition marked by dry, itchy skin that often appears as red, inflamed patches. Ezcema usually begins in the first few months, but can appear at any age.
Triggers: Dry skin, irritants, or allergies.



2. Heat Rash (aka "Prickly Heat" or miliaria)

What it is: Red bumps or tiny blisters caused by sweat trapped in the sweat ducts.

When it occurs: Common in hot, humid weather, and often in areas covered by clothing.



3. Viral Rashes

What they are: Viral rashes are the majority of rashes that you will see in your child. They occur from viral infections such as hand foot & mouth disease (HFMD), Slapped cheek (aka "Fifth Disease") and roseola.

Symptoms: Fever, rash, and general discomfort. These rashes usually follow a specific pattern associated with the virus.


4. Hives (Urticaria)

What they are: Raised, itchy welts that appear suddenly.

Triggers: Allergens, infections, or other factors. They can vary in size and shape and typically resolve within a few hours to days.



5. Nappy Rash

What it is: Common irritation in the nappy area due to moisture, friction, and irritants like urine and poo.

Appearance: Red, inflamed skin.

Why do we get rashes?

Rashes can be a result of:

  • Viral damage to the skin.
  • The immune response.
  • The body’s reaction to toxins produced by the virus.

Did you know that there's usually a period of illness before a viral rash? Your little one might come down with a fever and be more irritable and unsettled. A few days later, the rash often appears. Although it can look alarming, the rash is actually a sign that your child is getting better!

When to See the Doctor.

Take your child to the doctor if:

  • They have a fever* and a rash simultaneously.
  • The rash is painful or blistering.
  • They have bright red lips or a red tongue.
  • There is significant skin peeling.

*Remember, a child under 3 months with a fever warrants a trip straight to the emergency department... even if they have no other symptoms!*

When to Call an Ambulance

Call an ambulance if your child:
  • Has blue lips.
  • Is struggling to breathe.
  • Is pale, has mottled skin, and feels cold.
  • Seems confused and difficult to wake.
  • Is very upset and agitated.
  • Has swollen lips or tongue.
  • Has a non-blanching rash and also has a fever, stiff neck, or back pain.

Blanching vs. Non-Blanching Rashes

As a paramedic, one of the first things I will look for in an unwell child is whether they have a rash that is blanching or non-blanching. What does this mean?? Well, most rashes disappear when you press down on them (this is called blanching). When you release your finger again, the rash comes back again in full colour. We like blanching!

So- if you press on your child’s rash and it stays the same colour and doesn’t disappear, we call this non-blanching. We don't like non-blanching. It can be a sign of a more sinister illness such as meningococcal. 

For a rash that is made of small spots, it can be hard to see if they disappear or not when you press with your finger. In these cases, you can try the “glass test”:

  • Place a clear glass on top of the rash
  • Press the glass down firmly
  • Does the rash disappear (blanching) or does it stay there (non-blanching)

If your child ever has a fever and a non-blanching rash, always call an ambulance.

Rashes can be a bit of a mystery, but remember that most are harmless and will disappear on their own, but it's always good to know when to call in the experts. Keep an eye out for those signs that need extra attention, and don't hesitate to reach out to your doctor if you're unsure.

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