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Childhood Skin Problems

There are a number of skin conditions seen in young children, including cradle cap, roseola, and Fifth disease.

Cradle Cap

Picture of Cradle CapCradle cap (also called infantile seborrheic dermatitis) is a rash that begins as scaling and redness on a baby's scalp. This is not an infectious or contagious skin condition. Seborrheic dermatitis is common in infants, usually beginning in the first weeks of life and slowly disappearing over a period of weeks or months. The condition rarely is uncomfortable or itchy.

What Causes Cradle Cap?

The precise cause of the rash is not known; however, Pityrosporum ovale (a yeast) is believed to play a role in this condition.

How Is Cradle Cap Treated?

Mild cases of cradle cap can be treated with mild shampoo. You should wash the hair more frequently than before. This, along with soft brushing, will help remove the scales. Medicated shampoos (dandruff shampoos containing sulfur and 2% salicylic acid) may loosen the scales, but these shampoos can cause irritation and should be used only after consulting a pediatrician. Additional medications, such as topical steroids, may be prescribed to treat the scales and redness.

How Can Cradle Cap Be Prevented?

In most cases, frequent shampooing with a mild baby shampoo can prevent cradle cap from coming back once it has cleared up. A stronger medicated shampoo may be needed in some cases, but seek the advice of your doctor regarding the use of these shampoos. Most children outgrow cradle cap by the time they are 6 months old.

Roseola

Roseola is a viral illness that usually affects children between the ages of 6 months and 2 years. It is typically marked by several days of high fever, followed by a pinkish-red flat or raised rash that appears on the child's trunk and spreads over the body just as the fever breaks.

What Causes Roseola?

Roseola can be caused by two common and closely related viruses: human herpes virus (HHV) type 6 and type 7. These two viruses belong to the same family as the herpes simplex viruses. However, HHV-6 and HHV-7 do not cause the cold sores and genital herpes infections that HSV can cause. Roseola is contagious and spreads through tiny drops of fluid from the nose and throat of infected people. Someone who has not yet developed symptoms often spreads the infection.

What Are the Symptoms of Roseola?

In most cases, a child with roseola develops a mild upper-respiratory illness, followed by a high fever (often higher than 103 degrees Fahrenheit) for three to seven days. The child may be fussy or irritable during this time, may have a weak appetite, and may have swollen glands (lymph nodes) in the neck.

In many cases, the high fever abruptly stops and a rash appears on the child's body at about the same time. The rash is made up of flat or raised pinkish-red spots and appears on the torso. The spots turn white when touched. Individual spots may have lighter areas or "halos" around them. Usually, the rash spreads to the face, legs, arms, and neck.

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