You see red bumps scattered across your child's stomach and you instantly go into worry mode. Red bumps can be as serious as scarlet fever, but they can also be as minor as a heat rash, which may itch but goes away on its own. Depending on the cause, you can treat red bumps with products in your medicine cabinet or with your pediatrician's help.
Examine the size, texture and development of the red bumps to identify the cause. Chickenpox commonly begins on the stomach and looks like small, red pimples or insect bites in the beginning and develops into clear-fluid-filled blisters. Scarlet fever most often begins on the chest and stomach, appearing as tiny red "sandpaper" bumps before it spreads to other areas, resembling a sunburn. Slightly larger bumps may be measles, especially if accompanied by red bumps in the mouth with blue-white centers. Red welts that appear in one spot and then move to another spot within a few hours are hives. Hives may start on the stomach but will cover other areas of the body in time. Eczema causes dry, scaly, itchy, red patches on the skin. If you have a newborn baby under 5 days old and see flat red splotches with or without white bumps in the middle, you're probably noticing erythema toxicum, which is harmless and usually disappears within one to two weeks, cites Medline Plus.
Many rashes, including chickenpox, hives and eczema, can itch. However, stomach pain, sore throat, headache and fever often accompany chickenpox, whereas your child may seem otherwise fine if it's just hives or eczema. If your child has an extremely sore throat, a fever of 101 or higher, swollen glands in the neck and a tongue covered in a strawberry rash, she likely has scarlet fever. Flu-like symptoms, such as a hacking cough, runny nose, red eyes and high fever, generally accompany measles.
Hives, caused by an allergic reaction, are a common cause of stomach rashes. In children, milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, wheat, tree nuts, fish and shellfish account for 90 percent of all food reactions in kids, according to KidsHealth.org. A stomach rash can appear anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours after eating the food. Reactions to immunizations and medications can cause red bumps. Your child could also be reacting to the venom from an insect bite.
Treatment will depend on the exact cause of the bumps, but if you suspect an allergic reaction, an over-the-counter antihistamine may do the trick. Your child will want to scratch his itch, but scratching can lead to scarring, especially with chickenpox. To sooth the itch sensation, give him a lukewarm bath in oatmeal, apply calamine or hydrocortisone lotion and hold a cool compress to his skin. Give your child acetaminophen to reduce a fever.
Make your child a doctor's appointment if you suspect chickenpox, scarlet fever or measles. Keep your child away from other children while she's contagious. If your child's face swells or she has difficulty breathing from an allergic reaction, take her to the doctor immediately. Monitor your child's fever. If your child is under 3 months old and has a fever of 100.4 F or higher or you child is 3 months or older and has a fever of 102.2 F or higher with red bumps, take your child to the doctor right away.