Skin rashes in babies and children


Many things can cause a rash in babies and children, and they're often nothing to worry about.

Go to A&E or call 999 if your child has a rash and they:

  • have a stiff neck
  • are bothered by light
  • seem confused
  • have a high temperature
  • their rash does not fade when you press a glass against it 
  • difficulty breathing (you may notice grunting noises or their tummy sucking under their ribs), breathlessness, or they're breathing very fast
  • their skin, lips or tongue look pale, blue, grey or blotchy

These can be signs of meningitis.

It can be harder to see a change in skin colour on brown and black skin. Check the soles of the feet, palms, lips, tongue and inside the eyelids for colour changes.

As a parent, you may know if you child seems seriously unwell and should trust your own judgement.

See a GP if:

  • your child seems unwell, and has a rash and a fever

Use the information on this page to get an idea of what to do about a rash. But don't self-diagnose - see a GP if you're worried.

You can use our skin rashes tool to see different pictures of different rashes.

Rash with fever

Fever and red cheeks

A fever and a bright-red rash on both cheeks can be slapped cheek syndrome. Your child may have a cold, and the rash can spread to the body.

It usually clears up withing a week. Children's paracetamol can bring down a fever.

Blisters on hands, feet and in the mouth

Hand, foot and mouth disease is a common childhood illness that causes blisters on the hands and feet, and ulcers on the tongue. It also causes fever, and your child may have a sore throat.

It usually clears up in about a week. Children's paracetamol can bring down a fever.

Pink-red rash

Scarlet fever causes a pink-red rash, which feels like sandpaper and looks like sunburn. The rash can be red, but this may be less noticeable on brown and black skin.

Scarlet fever usually starts with a white coating on the tongue, a sore throat, headache and a high temperature.

See your GP straight away if you suspect scarlet fever. It's treated with antibiotics.

Red-brown rash

Measles usually starts with a fever, sore eyes that are sensitive to light and grey spots inside the cheeks.

After a few days, a red-brown rash appears on the head or neck and spreads to the rest of the body. The spots can appear red or brown, but they may be less noticeable on brown and black skin.

Call your GP if you think you or your child has measles.

Rash with itching

Rash caused by heat

Heat and sweat can cause small red spots known as prickly heat or heat rash. The rash can look red, but it may be less noticeable on brown or black skin. It itches, so you may notice your baby scratching.

Heat rash should clear up without treatment.

Scaly red skin or cracked skin

Skin that's itchy, red, dry and cracked may be eczema. It's common behind the knees, elbows and neck, but can appear anywhere.

The affected area may change colour. On white skin, the area may look pink or red. On brown and black skin, it may look grey or purple, or darker than surrounding skin.

Speak to your GP if you think your child has eczema.

Raised itchy spots

A raised, itchy red rash (hives) can appear as an allergic reaction to things like stings, medicines or food.

It usually clears up within a day or 2.

Speak to your GP if your child keeps getting this type of rash. They may be allergic to something.

Call 999 if there's swelling around their mouth.

Itchy round rash

An itchy, ring-like rash can be ringworm.  The patch may look red, pink, silver, or darker than surrounding skin.

Ask your pharmacist for a cream or lotion to treat ringworm. 

Speak to your GP if it appears on your child's scalp, as it may need to be treated with medicine.

Small spots and blisters

Chickenpox  starts with small, itchy spots. The spots may look red, pink, the same colour or darker than surrounding skin, depending on your child's skin tone. At the start, the spots may be harder to see on brown and black skin.

The spots quickly form blisters and then scabs.

Some children have a few spots, while others have them all over their body.

Itchy red sores or blisters

Red sores or blisters that burst and leave crusty, golden-brown patches could be impetigo.

The sores or blisters can be itchy, get bigger or spread to other parts of the body. They often appear on the face, hands or around the middle of the body.

Speak to your GP if your child may have impetigo.

Tiny and very itchy spots

Scabies is caused by tiny mites that burrow into the skin.

Ask your pharmacist for a cream or lotion to treat scabies. Everyone in the household needs to be treated at the same time - even if they don't have symptoms.

You should take your baby to a GP for advice if they are under 2 months old.

Rash without fever or itching

White spots in babies

Very small spots, called milia, often appear on a baby's face when they're a few days old.

Milia may appear white or yellow, depending on your baby's skin tone.

They usually go away within a few weeks and do not need treatment.

Red, yellow and white spots in babies

Raised red, yellow and white spots (erythema toxicum) can appear on babies when they're born. They usually appear on the face, body, upper arms and thighs.

The rash can disappear and reappear.

It should clear up in a few weeks without treatment.

Pink or skin-coloured spots

Small, firm, rasied spots that can appear anywhere on the body are common in children and known as molluscum contagiosum.

The spots can be the same colour as surrounding skin, darker than surrounding skin, or pink.

Treatment isn't recommended because the spots clear up on their own, although it can take more than a year.

Red patches on a baby's bottom

Nappy rash can be red patches on your baby's bottom or around the whole nappy area.

The skin may look sore and feel hot. There may be spots or blisters. It can make your child feel uncomfortable or distressed.

You can buy cream from your pharmacy to help clear it up.

Pimples on the cheeks, nose and forehead

Baby acne can appear within a month after birth but usually clears up after a few weeks or months.

Washing your baby's face with water and a mild moisturiser can help.

Do not use acne medicines intended for older children and adults.

Yellow, scaly patches on the scalp

Cradle cap is when a baby gets yellowish, greasy scaly patches on their scalp.

It usually gets better without treatment in a few weeks or months.

Gently washing your baby's hair and scalp with baby shampoo may help prevent more patches.

Use our skin rashes tool to see different pictures of different rashes.

The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website
Last Updated: 12/06/2023 10:07:16