Often parents come into the Pharmacy to me to ask about their child’s rash or to discuss a consultation they had with their GP about it. Parents often feel fobbed off when they are told that the doctor cannot provide them with a diagnosis as such, just suggest that the rash is viral and part of a self limiting illness. I wanted to take the chance to explain this so that parents can feel more at ease when they see a rash on their child’s skin.
What are viruses?
Viruses are very tiny infectious agents which can cause illness in people when they are present in their bodies. They live in the cells of our bodies where they replicate and mutate to keep themselves alive. Viruses cannot live if they have no body to live in – this is why its so important to try to minimise the passing of illnesses to stop the replication and growth of viruses. A good example of a persistent range of viruses is the flu.
So whats the problem?
There are many many many types of virus! Some are what you might call famous and are easily identified such as hand foot and mouth disease, chicken pox, or slapped cheek. The problem is that there are many viruses which cause similar symptoms to each other and cause the same or similar kind of mild red rash. Many viruses are not distinguishable from each other and so it is not as simple as attending the doctor or asking a Pharmacist and getting a diagnosis, other factors needs to be considered.
Its impossible to say what a viral rash looks like as they can all differ so much. For example we know that chicken pox causes a blistering red spotty rash whereas measles causes red – brown spotty rash that often starts at the top of the body and works its way down. Many other viruses may cause similar symptoms to each other such as fever, sore throat, cough etc. They may also have a similar plain red spotty rash. Viral rashes can be itchy or not and they can come up quickly and be mild or moderate.
What can I do?
Reducing the spread of viruses is paramount – when your kids are old enough tell them to ‘catch it, bin it, and kill it!’
The main thing to know is which kind of rash is serious and needs to be checked by a doctor. The meningitis rash is a spotty rash and the spots will not fade when they are under the pressure of a glass. Meningitis can be life threatening and if you suspect your child’s rash is not blanching under the pressure of a glass then seek medical attention immediately. The rash does not need to be present for your child to have meningitis so have a read of my full meningitis guide here to know what to watch for.
Measles also requires medical attention as it can cause complications even though it is now a rare disease. If you would like to know more about the measles rash or other symptoms then have a read of my full guide here.
If you are not concerned about your child’s rash and feel it may be one of the many other viruses doing the rounds then it’s good to know that these sort of rashes will go away by themselves. They generally do not require any treatment but if you feel your child may be itchy then calamine cream is a great option. If your child is over two they may use an antihistamine such as Zirtek solution or Phenergan – always read the label.
If you are pregnant it is best to avoid coming into contact with children or people who have viral rashes, obviously this is not always possible but when you can avoid exposure then you should to reduce any risk. Many rashes cause no harm to your unborn baby but there is an odd illness such as rubella which could. If you develop a rash then get it checked out by the doctor.
I hope you have found this article helpful and if you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to contact me through the contact form on this website or by sending a private message to the WonderBaba facebook page (www.facebook.com/wonderbabacare) or by calling me (Sheena) at Milltown totalhealth Pharmacy in Dublin 6 on 012600262. I’m always happy to help!