What is that rash?

August 17, 2009|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

When it comes to skin rashes, Hagerstown pediatrician Dr. Bruce E. Weneck has heard it all.

Parents who were advised to put strips of greasy bacon on their children's heads to treat baby dandruff.

The parent who thought the redness on a child's cheeks couldn't be caused by anything other than sun exposure.

The grandma who tells a new mom that none of her sons ever got diaper rash.

Bottom line: There are many new parents who enter Weneck's office, Partners in Pediatrics, seeing red about the red they see on their kids' skin.

"They're scared, they think they've done something wrong," Weneck said.

And they're probably in good company.

According to the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, the population for children ages 5 or younger was 25 million last year. That means there were millions of moms and dads out there worrying about the recent array of bumps on their kids' arms.


Before you freak out or put greasy bacon on your kid's head, "I think it's worth one phone call to talk to your primary health care provider," Weneck said.

Many childhood rashes are as common as the common cold and are generally mild, treatable with something you'd pick up at the drugstore while others clear up on their own.

Weneck talked about three of the most common skin ailments he sees and offered practical tips on how to treat them:

Diaper rash

When it comes to rashes, diaper rash is one the most common among his patients.

"Usually I get the call that they can't get it to go away," Weneck said.

Diaper rash is an array of bumps and blotches on the skin caused by prolonged dampness and the interaction of urine or feces with the skin.

"All kids get diaper cream," Weneck said.

According to the National Institutes of Health, diaper rash is generally harmless and clears up on its own.

Generally, over-the-counter creams - Weneck recommends Boudreaux's Butt Paste - can clear things up.

Cradle cap

While most parents have heard of diaper rash, Weneck said most have not heard of cradle cap. It's like baby dandruff, Weneck said, but it usually pops up on the baby's soft spot. The soft spot, or fontanel, is the space between the bones of an infant's skull where bony tissues have not yet formed.

"Parents are scared of the soft spot so they don't clean that part," Weneck said.

As a result, in some cases, greasy, scaling patches appear on the baby's scalp.

To treat cradle cap, gently wash that part of the head with regular dandruff shampoo, creating a gentle lather. "You want to watch the eyes," Weneck said.

Afterward, use baby oil or some other mild lotion to lubricate the dry skin.

Fifth disease

Fifth disease is more commonly referred to as slapped-cheek rash and many parents have heard of it.

"They usually come into the office saying my kid has the slapped cheek," Weneck said.

Children with Fifth disease have a red rash on their faces and might possibly have a low-grade fever. But parents who aren't familiar with Fifth disease mistake the illness for overexposure to the sun.

Fifth disease is caused by parvovirus B19, different from the parvovirus that infects cats and dogs, according to the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases' Division of Viral Diseases, which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fifth is contagious. It spreads through coming in contact with the saliva, sputum or mucus of an infected person before the onset of the rash, according to the Division of Viral Diseases. During a school outbreak an estimated 10 to 60 percent of a student body can become infected with Fifth, according to the division.

According to the CDC, Fifth usually clears up on its own.

"There's no real treatment," said Weneck, who might prescribe Tylenol and plenty of fluids for patients with Fifth.

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