Viral Rash in Children: Care Instructions

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A viral rash on the face and chest of a child

Your Care Instructions

Many viruses can cause a rash in children. Some viral rashes have a clear cause, like the ones caused by chickenpox or fifth disease. But for many viral rashes, doctors may not know the cause. When the virus goes away, in most cases the rash will go away.

Symptoms of a viral rash depend on the type of virus and how your child's skin reacts to it. There may be redness, bumps, or raised areas. Some rashes may be itchy. Other viral symptoms may include a fever, a headache, a runny nose, a sore throat, belly pain, or diarrhea.

Most viruses that cause rashes are easy to pass from one person to another. Talk to your doctor about when your child can go back to day care or school.

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?

  • If the rash is itchy:
    • Apply a cool, wet cloth for 15 to 30 minutes several times a day.
    • Urge your child to not scratch the rash. Scratching could cause a skin infection.
    • Ask your doctor if there are medicines that can help when itching is bad.
  • If your doctor prescribed medicine, give it exactly as directed. Be safe with medicines. Call your doctor if you think your child is having a problem with the medicine.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has symptoms of a new or worse infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.
  • Your child seems to be getting sicker.
  • Your child has new blisters or bruises.

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

  • 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.