Mystery Rash: Prickly Heat or Poison Ivy?

Has your child developed a rash overnight? Is he or she itchy and irritable? Are the bumps and redness spreading? Rashes and similar skin ailments can stymie even the most astute parents. The pediatric team at Orange County’s Newport Children’s Medical Group (NCMG) offers these guidelines to common childhood rashes.

Is it Poison Ivy?

If your child has been outside or come in contact with pets who have been roaming through underbrush, a rash could develop from the oils secreted by poison ivy, poison oak or poison sumac foliage. Some kids are highly sensitive to these resins, so changing clothes and having a bath as soon as possible are recommended. Bumps and blisters caused by these plants usually appear 24-48 hours after exposure. Apply calamine lotion to the itchy spots. See a pediatrician right away if the rash appears on the face or near the eyes. Severe cases may require hydrocortisone or steroid intervention.

Is it Prickly Heat?

When children get overheated, they may develop a “pin prick” rash. Clogged sweat glands may contribute to the redness. Avoid overdressing your baby. Keep him or her in loose breathable fabrics. A sun hat, shade and air-conditioning are simple but effective tools to minimize heat rash.

Is the Rash Spreading?

Some rashes are caused by allergies or viral infections such as chickenpox. Skin-to-skin contact or touching infected toys or clothing can cause infections such as molluscum, which is characterized by red dimpled sores that can last weeks or months. These usually heal on their own, but should be covered with bandages to prevent their spread.

Impetigo, a contagious bacterial infection, causes a red rash that blisters, breaks open and crusts over. Blisters often appear around the mouth and nose, but can show up anywhere. An antibacterial soap and ointment are typical treatment protocol.

Other itchy red bumps can be indicative of bug bites or unsanitary conditions in swimming pools or contaminated bodies of water. Rashes also are a hallmark of Fifths disease, roseola, mumps, measles and scarlet fever. High fevers, sore throats, nasal congestion, cough, lethargy, swollen lymph nodes and eye redness may also be present and indicate more cause for concern.

It’s always a good idea to seek medical evaluation if your child develops a mystery rash. Newport Children’s Medical Group, an Orange County medical resource for the last 40 years, is open 7 days a week, year-round and offers after-hour appointments. NCMG has three clinic sites staffed by top pediatricians, including Dr. Zacharia Reda, a pulmonary and intensive pediatric care specialist.

We Offer Appointments 7 Days per Week, Including Holidays
Same Day Appointments for Acutely Ill Patients

To schedule an appointment, call:

  • Hoag: (949) 642-7332
  • Fashion Island: (949) 644-0970
  • Huntington Beach: (714) 698-1648; (714) 848-0023; or (714) 848-1136.
  • Mission Viejo: (949) 364-8700