Redness on the Face in Children

Girl embraces her brother
A girl embraces her baby brother who has a red blotchy face. (Image: Radist/iStock/Getty Images)

A red face on your child can be confusing for parents, especially if you know your child doesn’t have a sunburn. Fifth disease, scarlet fever and eczema can all cause redness of the face on your child. All these conditions have different methods of treatment, so consult with your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

Identification

Fifth disease is a common childhood illness that initially has cold-like symptoms followed by a red, slapped-cheek appearance on the face. Once the redness begins on the face, it will soon spread to the legs, arms and trunk of the body.

Scarlet fever starts as a red rash on the face before spreading to other areas of the body, but the symptoms are more severe than with fifth disease. Scarlet fever will give your child a red tongue, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes of the neck, chills and a fever over 101 degrees. Nausea and vomiting may also be present.

Eczema is a skin condition that can appear on your child’s face and will be red, dry and itchy.

Causes

Fifth disease is caused by parvovirus B19 and is spread from person to person by fluids of the nose, mouth and throat.

Scarlet fever is caused by the same bacterium that causes strep throat. The bacterium releases toxins that cause redness of the face and tongue.

The cause of eczema is unknown, but children are at a higher risk for developing this skin condition if they have family members with eczema, hay fever or asthma. Dry skin, a hot environment and wearing clothing with rough materials can cause eczema to flare up. If your child scratches the eczema, the rash will get worse.

Treatments

Fifth disease is a virus, so it must run its course. It doesn’t cause your child to feel that sick, but if the rash is itchy, ask your doctor about itch-relieving medication. If your child does have a fever, acetaminophen can bring down your child’s temperature.

Scarlet fever is treated with antibiotics. It’s important that your child finishes the entire prescription of antibiotics even if he is feeling better sooner. Stopping antibiotics early can cause the infection to return and be more resilient to treatment. Acetaminophen can also be used to reduce the fever and provide some comfort to the sore throat.

No treatment is available for eczema, but most kids outgrow the condition by age 5. Hydrocortisone cream or ointment can help relieve itching, and a cool compress can help with inflammation.

Prevention

Fifth disease is not contagious by the time the rash appears on your child’s face, so the illness is difficult to prevent. Your child can reduce his risk of both fifth disease and scarlet fever by frequently washing his hands with soap and water and not sharing dining utensils and food. Eczema can’t be prevented, but you can prevent flareups by avoiding triggers. Keep your child cool, moisturized and in loose, light, cotton fabrics.

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