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Rashes in babies and children

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

This page covers some of the common rashes in babies and children.

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

Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E now if:

Your child is unwell with a rash and has any of these symptoms:

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

On brown and black skin, it may be easier to see the rash or colour changes on the soles of the feet, palms, lips, tongue and inside the eyelids.

Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or call 111 if:

  • you're worried about your child's rash and you're not sure what to do

Rash with a high temperature

Rash on cheeks with high temperature

Bright red spots covering a child's cheeks, shown on white skin.

A rash on 1 or both cheeks plus a high temperature, runny nose, sore throat and headache may be slapped cheek syndrome.

Slapped cheek syndrome can usually be treated at home.

Slapped cheek symptoms and what to do

Check if it's slapped cheek syndrome

The first sign of slapped cheek syndrome is usually feeling unwell for a few days.

Symptoms may include:

  • a high temperature
  • a runny nose and sore throat
  • a headache
A child's face with a red rash on both cheeks. Shown on white skin.
A red rash may appear on 1 or both cheeks. It may be less obvious on brown and black skin. Adults do not usually get the rash on their face.
A blotchy, pink rash on the chest and upper arm of a child with white skin.
A few days later, a spotty rash may appear on the chest, arms and legs. The rash can be raised and itchy. It may be harder to see on brown and black skin.

Things you can do yourself

You do not usually need to see a GP for slapped cheek syndrome.

There are some things you can do to ease the symptoms.

Do

  • rest

  • drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration – babies should continue their normal feeds

  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen for a high temperature, headaches or joint pain

  • use moisturiser on itchy skin

  • speak to a pharmacist about itchy skin – they can recommend the best antihistamine for children

Don’t

  • do not give aspirin to children under 16

Information:

Find out more

Slapped cheek syndrome

Blisters on hands and feet plus mouth ulcers

Small, round, pink blisters on a child's hand and wrist, from hand, foot and mouth disease. Shown on white skin.

Blisters on the hands and feet, with ulcers in the mouth, could be hand, foot and mouth disease.

Hand, foot and mouth disease can usually be treated at home.

Hand, foot and mouth symptoms and what to do

Check if it's hand, foot and mouth disease

The first signs of hand, foot and mouth disease can be:

  • a sore throat
  • a high temperature
  • not wanting to eat

After a few days mouth ulcers and a rash will appear.

A round mouth ulcer with a pale pink centre and red ring around it, on the side of a child's tongue.
Ulcers appear in the mouth and on the tongue. These can be painful and make it difficult to eat or drink.
Small, round, pink blisters on a child’s hand and wrist, from hand, foot and mouth disease. Shown on white skin.
Raised spots usually appear on the hands and feet, and sometimes on the thighs and bottom as well. The spots can look pink, red, or darker than surrounding skin, depending on your skin tone.
A round, grey blister on the top of a child's toe. The skin around it is pink. Shown on white skin.
The spots become blisters which appear grey or lighter than surrounding skin and can be painful.

The symptoms are usually the same in adults and children, but they can be worse in babies and children under 5.

It's possible to get hand, foot and mouth disease more than once.

How to treat hand, foot and mouth disease yourself

You cannot take antibiotics or medicines to cure hand, foot and mouth disease. It usually gets better on its own in 7 to 10 days.

To help the symptoms:

  • drink fluids to prevent dehydration – avoid acidic drinks, such as fruit juice
  • eat soft foods like yoghurt – avoid hot and spicy foods
  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen to help ease a sore mouth or throat
Information:

Find out more

Hand, foot and mouth disease

Rash on the face and body

Red, spotty rash caused by scarlet fever on the chest, arms and neck of a child with white skin.

A rash of small, raised bumps that feels rough, like sandpaper, could be scarlet fever.

Speak to a GP if you think your child has scarlet fever.

Scarlet fever symptoms and what to do

Check if you have scarlet fever

The first signs of scarlet fever can be flu-like symptoms, including a high temperature, a sore throat and swollen neck glands (a large lump on the side of your neck).

A rash appears 12 to 48 hours later. It looks looks like small, raised bumps and starts on the chest and tummy, then spreads. The rash makes your skin feel rough, like sandpaper.

A red, patchy rash on the chest, neck and upper arms caused by scarlet fever. Shown on white skin.
On white skin the rash looks pink or red. It may be harder to see on brown and black skin, but you can still feel it.
A swollen tongue with reddish orange surface and a white coating at the back and along the centre. Shown on white skin.
A white coating also appears on the tongue. This peels, leaving the tongue red, swollen and covered in little bumps (called "strawberry tongue").
Lower half of a child's face with a bright red cheek. Skin is red from their jaw up to their eye. Shown on white skin.
The rash does not appear on the face, but the cheeks can look red. The redness may be harder to see on brown and black skin.

The symptoms are the same for children and adults, although scarlet fever is less common in adults.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if you or your child:

  • have scarlet fever symptoms
  • do not get better in a week (after seeing a GP)
  • have scarlet fever and chickenpox at the same time
  • are ill again, weeks after scarlet fever got better – this can be a sign of a complication, such as rheumatic fever
  • are feeling unwell and have been in contact with someone who has scarlet fever

Scarlet fever is very easily spread. Check with a GP before you go in. They may suggest a phone consultation.

Information:

Find out more

Scarlet fever

A red, spotty rash on a child's face and shoulder, caused by measles. Shown on white skin.

A spotty rash that appears on the head or neck and spreads to the rest of the body could be measles.

Speak to a GP if you think your child has measles.

Measles symptoms and what to do

Check if you or your child has measles

Measles usually starts with cold-like symptoms, followed by a rash a few days later. Some people may also get small spots in their mouth.

Cold-like symptoms

The first symptoms of measles include:

  • a high temperature
  • a runny or blocked nose
  • sneezing
  • a cough
  • red, sore, watery eyes

Spots in the mouth

A number of very small white spots inside a person’s mouth.

Small white spots may appear inside the cheeks and on the back of the lips a few days later. These spots usually last a few days.

The measles rash

A rash usually appears a few days after the cold-like symptoms.

The measles rash on a person with white skin. The person’s arms, chest and tummy are almost completely covered with red, blotchy patches.
The rash starts on the face and behind the ears before spreading to the rest of the body.
A close-up of the measles rash on someone with white skin, showing some raised red spots joined together to form blotchy patches.
The spots of the measles rash are sometimes raised and join together to form blotchy patches. They're not usually itchy.
The measles rash on the forehead of a child with light brown skin. The rash looks like pale red blotchy patches.
The rash looks brown or red on white skin. It may be harder to see on brown and black skin.

Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:

  • you think you or your child may have measles
  • you've been in close contact with someone who has measles and you've not had measles before or you've not had 2 doses of the MMR vaccine
  • you've been in close contact with someone who has measles and you're pregnant – measles can be serious in pregnancy
  • you have a weakened immune system and think you have measles or have been in close contact with someone with measles

Measles can spread to others easily. Call your GP surgery before you go in. They may suggest talking over the phone.

You can also call 111 or get help from 111 online.

Information:

Find out more

Measles

Rash with itching

Rash caused by heat

Patches of red skin across the upper back, caused by heat rash. Shown on white skin.

A rash of small, raised spots that feels itchy or prickly could be heat rash (prickly heat).

Heat rash can usually be treated at home.

Heat rash symptoms and what to do

Check if you have heat rash

The symptoms of heat rash are:

  • small, raised spots
  • an itchy, prickly feeling
  • mild swelling

The rash often looks red, but this may be less obvious on brown or black skin.

The symptoms of heat rash are often the same in adults and children.

It can appear anywhere on the body and spread, but it cannot be passed on to other people.

A red, patchy rash with some small, raised bumps, on the side of a child's chest. Shown on white skin
Heat rash appears as raised spots that are 2mm to 4mm across. Some spots may be filled with fluid.

How you can treat or prevent heat rash yourself

The main thing to do is keep your skin cool so you do not sweat and irritate the rash.

To keep your skin cool

  • wear loose cotton clothing
  • use lightweight bedding
  • take cool baths or showers
  • drink plenty of fluid to avoid dehydration

To calm the itching or prickly feeling

  • apply something cold, such as a damp cloth or ice pack (wrapped in a tea towel) for up to 20 minutes
  • tap or pat the rash instead of scratching it
  • do not use perfumed shower gels or creams
Information:

Find out more

Heat rash (prickly heat)

Scaly or cracked skin

Patches of red, scaly skin on the back of the knees, caused by eczema. Shown on white skin.
Patches of grey, scaly skin on a child's ankles and feet, caused by eczema. Shown on dark brown skin.

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

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

Find out more about atopic eczema

Raised, itchy spots or patches

Raised patches and redness on a child's knee, caused by hives. Shown on light brown skin.

Raised, itchy patches or spots could be caused by an allergic reaction (hives).

Hives can usually be treated at home. But call 999 if there's swelling around your child's mouth or they're struggling to breathe.

Hives symptoms and what to do

Check if it's hives

The main symptom of hives is an itchy rash.

The rash can:

  • be raised bumps or patches in many shapes and sizes
  • appear anywhere on the body
  • be on 1 area or spread across the body
  • feel itchy, sting or burn
  • look pink or red when affecting someone with white skin; the colour of the rash can be harder to see on brown and black skin

A pharmacist can help with hives

A pharmacist can give you advice about antihistamine treatment to help a hives rash.

Tell the pharmacist if you have a long-term condition, because you might not be able to take antihistamines.

This treatment might not be suitable for young children.

Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E now if:

  • you're wheezing
  • you get tightness in your chest or throat
  • you have trouble breathing or talking
  • your mouth, face, lips, tongue or throat start swelling

You could be having a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) and may need immediate treatment in hospital.

Information:

Find out more

Hives

Itchy round rash

Circular patch of dry, red skin with a darker crust forming around the edge, caused by ringworm. Shown on white skin.
An oval-shaped patch of scaly, reddish-brown skin on a child's cheek, caused by ringworm. Shown on medium brown skin.

An itchy, dry, ring-shaped patch of skin may be ringworm. The patch may look red, pink, silver, or darker than surrounding skin.

Ringworm can usually be treated at home.

Ringworm symptoms and what to do

Check if it's ringworm

The main symptom of ringworm is a rash. It may look red, silver or darker than surrounding skin, depending on your skin tone.

The rash may be scaly, dry, swollen or itchy.

Ringworm can appear anywhere on the body, including the scalp (tinea capitis) and groin (jock itch).

A ring-shaped ringworm rash on white skin
The rash is usually ring-shaped, but it may look different on your face, neck or scalp.
An oval-shaped patch of scaly, reddish-brown skin on a child’s cheek, caused by ringworm. Shown on medium brown skin.
The colour of the ringworm rash may be less noticeable on brown and black skin.
A large ringworm rash on white skin
Sometimes the rash grows, spreads, or there's more than 1 rash.
Ringworm on the scalp of someone with white skin
Ringworm on the face or scalp may also cause patchy hair loss.

A pharmacist can help with ringworm

Speak to a pharmacist first.

They can look at the rash and recommend the best antifungal medicine. This might be a cream, gel or spray depending on where the rash is.

You may need to use an antifungal medicine every day for up to 4 weeks. It's important to use it for the right amount of time, even if the rash has gone away.

A pharmacist will tell you if they think you should see a GP.

Information:

Find out more

Ringworm

Small spots and blisters

A red, spotty rash on the face, arms and back of a child caused by chickenpox. Shown on white skin.
About 80 pink chickenpox spots and blisters on the chest and arms. Some blisters are shiny. Shown on light brown skin.

Small, itchy spots that turn into blisters and scabs could be chickenpox.

Chickenpox can usually be treated at home.

Chickenpox symptoms and what to do

Check if it's chickenpox

An itchy, spotty rash is the main symptom of chickenpox. It can be anywhere on the body.

Chickenpox happens in 3 stages. But new spots can appear while others are becoming blisters or forming a scab.

Stage 1: small spots appear

The spots can:

  • be anywhere on the body, including inside the mouth and around the genitals, which can be painful
  • spread or stay in a small area
  • be red, pink, darker or the same colour as surrounding skin, depending on your skin tone
  • be harder to see on brown and black skin

Stage 2: the spots become blisters

The spots fill with fluid and become blisters. The blisters are very itchy and may burst.

Stage 3: the blisters become scabs

The spots form a scab. Some scabs are flaky while others leak fluid.

Other symptoms

Before or after the rash appears, you might also get:

  • a high temperature
  • aches and pains, and generally feeling unwell
  • loss of appetite

Chickenpox is very itchy and can make children feel miserable, even if they do not have many spots.

The chickenpox spots look the same on children and adults. But adults usually have a high temperature for longer and more spots than children.

It's possible to get chickenpox more than once, but it's unusual.

How to treat chickenpox at home

Stay off school or work

You'll need to stay away from school, nursery or work until all the spots have formed a scab. This is usually 5 days after the spots appeared.

Do

  • drink plenty of fluid (try ice lollies if your child is not drinking) to avoid dehydration

  • take paracetamol to help with pain and discomfort

  • cut your child's fingernails and put socks on their hands at night to stop them scratching

  • use cooling creams or gels from a pharmacy

  • speak to a pharmacist about using antihistamine medicine to help itching

  • bathe in cool water and pat the skin dry (do not rub)

  • dress in loose clothes

Don’t

  • do not use ibuprofen unless advised to do so by a doctor, as it may cause serious skin infections

  • do not give aspirin to children under 16

  • do not go near newborn babies, people who are pregnant and people with a weakened immune system, as chickenpox can be dangerous for them

  • do not scratch the spots, as scratching can cause scarring

Information:

Find out more

Chickenpox

Itchy sores or blisters

The lower half of a child's face with red and yellow weepy sores on the nose and around the mouth caused by impetigo. Shown on white skin.
Impetigo on the chin. The patches are about 2cm wide, red and slightly orange, with darker scabs in the middle. Shown on brown skin.

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.

Speak to a GP if you think your child may have impetigo.

Impetigo symptoms and what to do

Check if you have impetigo

Impetigo starts with red sores or blisters, but the redness may be harder to see in brown and black skin.

The sores or blisters quickly burst and leave crusty, golden-brown patches.

The patches can:

  • look a bit like cornflakes stuck to your skin
  • get bigger
  • spread to other parts of your body
  • be itchy
  • sometimes be painful
The lower half of a child's face with red sores and yellow weepy sores on the nose and around the mouth. Shown on white skin.
Sores (non-bullous impetigo) or blisters (bullous impetigo) can start anywhere – but usually on exposed areas like your face and hands.
Impetigo on the chin. The patches are about 2cm wide, red and golden with darker scabs in the middle. Shown on brown skin.
The sores or blisters burst and form crusty patches.

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if you or your child:

  • might have impetigo
  • had treatment for impetigo but the symptoms change or get worse
  • had impetigo before and it keeps coming back

Impetigo is very infectious. Check with the GP before you go into the surgery. They may suggest a phone consultation.

Information:

Find out more

Impetigo

Small and very itchy spots

A child's feet with many dark red spots from scabies. Some spots have redness around them. Shown on white skin.

Very itchy raised spots could be caused by tiny mites that burrow into the skin (scabies). There may be raised lines with a dot at one end, often first appearing between the fingers.

Scabies can usually be treated at home.

Scabies symptoms and what to do

Check if it's scabies

The symptoms of scabies are:

  • intense itching, especially at night
  • a raised rash or spots

The spots may look red. They are more difficult to see on dark skin, but you should be able to feel them.

A white hand with tiny bumps lines with a dot at one end.
Tiny mites lay eggs in the skin, leaving lines with a dot at one end.
A white hand with red rash in between the fingers and across the back  of the hand.
The rash can appear anywhere, but it often starts between the fingers.
Red spots on the skin caused by scabies.
The rash may then spread and turn into tiny spots. This may look red on lighter skin.
Dark spots on brown hand caused by scabies.
The rash may leave dark spots on the skin. This may look brown or black on darker skin.

The scabies rash usually spreads across the whole body, apart from the head.

However, older people, young children and those with a weakened immune system may develop a rash on their head and neck.

A pharmacist can help with scabies

Scabies is not usually a serious condition, but it does need to be treated.

A pharmacist will recommend a cream or lotion that you apply over your whole body. It's important to read the instructions carefully.

Let the pharmacist know if you are breastfeeding or pregnant.

You'll need to repeat the treatment 1 week later.

Scabies is very infectious, but it can take up to 8 weeks for the rash to appear.

Everyone in your home needs to be treated at the same time, even if they do not have symptoms.

Anyone you have had sexual contact with in the past 8 weeks should also be treated.

Information:

Find out more

Scabies

Rash without fever or itching

Tiny spots on a baby's face

Lots of white spots on a baby's nose. The spots are very small and close together. Shown on white skin.

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 colour.

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

Red, yellow and white spots in babies

A red, spotty rash all over a baby's face. Some spots are in clusters. Shown on white skin.

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 get better in a few weeks without treatment.

Skin-coloured or pink spots

Raised, skin-coloured, fluid-filled spots from molluscum contagiosum. They’re 1mm to 5mm. Shown on medium brown skin.
About 20 raised, pink to brown spots caused by molluscum contagiosum. Shown on white skin.

Small, firm, raised spots could be molluscum contagiosum. The spots can be the same colour as surrounding skin, darker than surrounding skin, or pink.

You can usually treat molluscum contagiosum at home.

Molluscum contagiosum symptoms and what to do

Check if it's molluscum contagiosum

Molluscum contagiosum is more common in children, but anyone can get it.

Usually, the only symptom of molluscum contagiosum is spots.

A close-up of circular, red spots up to 5mm wide on white skin. Some spots are raised with a shiny white centre and some have a small hole or dimple in the middle.
The spots are about 2 to 5mm wide and usually appear together. They are raised and dome-shaped with a shiny white dimple in the middle.
A child’s neck and torso showing many raised red spots, especially in the folds of the neck (shown on light brown skin).
Children with the infection often get spots on their body and in or around folds of skin (groin, behind the knee and armpits).
A close-up of the pubic area with small red spots (shown on white skin).
In adults where the infection is spread through sexual contact, spots may be around the lower tummy, genital area and thighs.
A close-up of the side of a person’s face showing raised spots near the eye (shown on dark brown skin).
Someone with a weakened immune system may get spots on the face, around the eyes or have many or bigger spots.

How to look after yourself or your child

The spots caused by molluscum contagiosum are usually harmless and should clear up within 18 months without needing treatment.

Molluscum contagiosum is contagious. It is usually passed on by direct skin to skin contact.

The chance of passing it on to other people during normal activities is small so you or your child should be able to carry on with your normal activities. If you are not sure, check with a GP.

There are some things you can do to help reduce the risk of the infection spreading and help ease any symptoms.

Do

  • try things to help with dryness and itchy skin, such as holding a damp towel against the skin, having cool baths or using an unperfumed moisturiser regularly

  • keep the affected area covered, including using waterproof bandages if you go swimming

  • use a condom while having sex if you are infected

Don’t

  • do not squeeze or scratch the spots, as it could cause an infection or scarrring

  • do not share baths or things such as towels, bedding or clothes

Information:

Find out more

Molluscum contagiosum

Red patches on a baby's bottom

Rash on a baby's bottom. There is 1 very red patch. The skin surrounding that area is pink. Shown on white skin.

If your baby has a red and sore bottom, it could be nappy rash.

Nappy rash can usually be treated at home.

Find out more about nappy rash

Pimples on the cheeks, nose and forehead

A few small pink acne spots on a baby’s cheeks. Shown on white skin.

Spots that appear on a baby's cheeks, nose or forehead within a month after birth could be baby acne.

You do not need to treat baby acne. It usually gets better after a few weeks or months.

Yellow, scaly patches on the scalp

Yellow crusty patches on a baby's head. Some are larger than others. Shown on light brown skin.

Yellow or white, greasy, scaly patches on your baby's scalp could be cradle cap.

Cradle cap can usually be treated at home.

Cradle cap symptoms and what to do

Check if your baby has cradle cap

Cradle cap in a baby with white skin. There's a large area of white or yellow scaly skin on their scalp, covering most of their head.
On the scalp, cradle cap can look like large patches of white or yellow scaly skin.
Cradle cap in a baby with brown skin. There's a large area of pink skin on the top of their head that's covered with white or grey scales.
On black or brown skin, the affected area can look pink with white or grey scales.
Cradle cap in a baby with white skin. The top of the baby’s head is covered with greasy yellow or brown scales and the surrounding area is red.
The crusts may be greasy and can flake off, making the skin look red.
Cradle cap affecting the eyebrows of a baby with white skin. They have yellow crusts of skin above their eyes and around their eyebrows.
Cradle cap mainly affects the head and face, but sometimes it can appear in other places like the nappy area.

Cradle cap is not itchy or painful and does not bother your baby.

The cause of cradle cap is not clear, but it cannot be caught from other babies.

Things you can do to help with cradle cap

Do

  • lightly massage an emollient (moisturiser) on to your baby's scalp to help loosen the scales

  • gently brush your baby's scalp with a soft brush and then wash it with baby shampoo

Don’t

  • do not use olive oil – it may not be suitable for use on skin

  • do not use peanut oil (because of the allergy risk)

  • do not use soap or adult shampoos

  • do not pick crusts – this can increase the risk of infection

Information:

Your baby's hair may come away with the scales. Do not worry if this happens as it will soon grow back.

A pharmacist can help with cradle cap

You can ask a pharmacist about:

  • an emollient you can use on your baby's scalp
  • unperfumed baby shampoos
  • barrier creams to use on your baby's nappy area, if needed
Information:

Find out more

Cradle cap

Page last reviewed: 11 June 2021
Next review due: 11 June 2024