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My Child Has a Rash All Over Their Body: Is This a Sick Visit or an Emergency?

 My Child Has a Rash All Over Their Body: Is This a Sick Visit or an Emergency?

Skin rashes are a common reason for pediatric sick visits. That doesn’t make you feel any less concerned, however, when your newborn, toddler, preschooler, grade schooler, or adolescent develops red, inflamed, bumpy patches of skin — and you have no idea why.   

Rashes can be perplexing because they have a wide range of potential causes, including:

While any rash on your child’s skin can be worrisome, a widespread rash that covers much of their body can be downright distressing. At Pediatric Practitioners of Oklahoma, our team explains when your child’s rash should prompt a sick visit to our office — and when it warrants immediate attention from an emergency care provider.

Understanding your child’s skin rash

A skin rash can be triggered by many things, most of which fall into one of three categories: An external irritant that bothers the skin (i.e., poison ivy rash), an internal condition that inflames skin tissues (i.e., viral infection), or a problem with external and internal features (i.e., a chronic skin condition like psoriasis).

Besides having many possible causes, rashes occur with varying degrees of severity: Some are mild, limited, and self-resolving; others are severe, widespread, and persistent. A rash may be:

On lighter skin tones, most rashes look red or pink; on darker skin tones, they’re more likely to look dark brown, gray, or purple. Some rashes clear up on their own almost as quickly as they appeared, while others persist for weeks or recur frequently. 

Localized rashes

A rash is “localized” when it appears on one part — and often on just one side — of the body, such as a rash that develops on one foot. Many localized rashes are caused by external irritant contact with something like a chemical, allergen, insect bite, or fungus (i.e., ringworm).  

Widespread rashes

A widespread rash is a pattern of small dots, large dots, or solid coloring that covers most of the body or a larger body area. They always occur on matching (both) sides of the body (i.e., both legs or arms). Many widespread viral rashes cover the chest, stomach, and/or back.

What can cause a widespread rash?

Most of the time, the cause of a widespread virus is the result of an internal factor that affects the skin through the bloodstream. Widespread rashes are most frequently caused by infection (viral or bacterial) and food or drug allergies; they can also be caused by overheating (heat rash) or toxin exposure.

 In both infants and older children, widespread rashes are most often a symptom of a viral or bacterial infection. Roseola, chickenpox, measles, scarlet fever, viral hives, meningococcemia, and hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) are a few widespread rashes that come from infection.

Medical evaluation for a skin rash

Unfortunately, there isn’t a single, catch-all rule to help you quickly determine whether a widespread rash is dangerous. Instead, there are several things you should look out for. 

Given that most widespread rashes are caused by a contagious illness or an allergic reaction, how your child looks and acts can give you a strong indication about the seriousness of the problem. You can safely schedule a same-day sick visit at our office if your child:

 For example, a widespread rash called roseola typically appears in the wake of a viral infection, about 12-24 hours after the fever is gone — when most kids are feeling fine. This harmless rash doesn’t require treatment, and usually lasts three to five days before it disappears.     

The bottom line? Anytime your child has a widespread rash in the absence of fever, breathing difficulties, or other worrisome symptoms, see our team for an evaluation so we can diagnose the problem and determine whether treatment is required. 

Rashes that require emergency care

Seek immediate emergency care if your child has a widespread rash that appears suddenly, spreads rapidly, covers their entire body, or also appears inside their mouth or nose. Your child also requires emergency care if their rash is accompanied by:

 A widespread rash of tiny dots or bruise-like larger spots — either purple or dark red — is also a medical emergency. This kind of rash is a sign of bleeding into the skin, which may be caused by a life-threatening infection that requires prompt medical intervention.

Are you concerned about your child’s widespread rash?  We’re here to help. Call 918-283-4660 to make an appointment at Pediatric Practitioners of Oklahoma in Claremore, Oklahoma, today.

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