Acne in Children: Care Instructions

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Acne is a skin problem that shows up as blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples. It most often affects the face, neck, and upper body. Acne occurs when oil and dead skin cells clog the skin's pores.

Acne usually starts during the teen years and often lasts into adulthood. Gentle cleansing every day controls most mild acne. If home treatment does not work, your doctor may prescribe creams, antibiotics, or a stronger medicine called isotretinoin. Sometimes birth control pills help teenage girls who have monthly acne flare-ups.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Have your child gently wash their face 1 or 2 times a day with warm (not hot) water and a mild soap or cleanser and rinse well.
  • Have your child use an over-the-counter lotion or gel that contains benzoyl peroxide. Start with a small amount of 2.5% benzoyl peroxide and increase the strength as needed. Benzoyl peroxide works well for acne, but your child may need to use it for up to 2 months before the acne starts to improve.
  • Have your child apply acne cream, lotion, or gel to all the places your child gets pimples, blackheads, or whiteheads, not just where they are now. Follow the instructions carefully. If your child's skin gets too dry and scaly or red and sore, reduce the amount. For the best results, make sure your child applies the medicines as directed and does not miss doses.
  • Do not let your child squeeze or pick pimples and blackheads. This can cause infection and scarring.
  • Be sure your child uses only oil-free makeup, sunscreen, and other skin care products that will not clog pores.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has signs of an infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, and redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the affected area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You think your child may be having a problem with the medicine.
  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.