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Summer Bummers: Treating Kids’ Itches and Rashes

Help your kids manage the ouchies with confidence.

With more skin exposed in the warmer months, it’s inevitable that your kids will get stung or bitten, or have a brush with something irritating. In most cases, they won’t be sidelined for long, thanks to a little love, some ice, and perhaps an over-the-counter-medication. Here’s how to deal with the most common kids’ itches and rashes.

Heat Rash

Everybody gets this. Heat rash is essentially a clogged sweat duct, said Dr. Christina L. Chung, a dermatologist at Drexel Medicine and an assistant professor in the school’s College of Medicine. The rash — pink and raised skin, or little bumps —  can be itchy or have a stinging sensation. Relocate to a cool environment, apply cortisone cream, calamine, or regular body lotion to relieve symptoms.


“Invariably, the rash resolves without treatment in hours to days,” said Dr. Danielle Nicholson, an attending physician at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Primary Care, CHOP Campus branch in University City. Avoid excessive sweating and wear loose-fitting cotton clothing, Nicholson said.

Poison Ivy/Poison Oak/Poison Sumac

It’s the oil, an allergenic resin, from this three-leafed plant that people react to, Nicholson said. The oil is potent,  so a single exposure — on your skin, clothes, gardening tools, or pet fur — can lead to “small red bumps or fluid-filled blisters that appear in a linear or streak-like pattern,” she added. For some, the rash is intensely itchy.


If you’ve been exposed, wash skin with soap and water, or apply cool compresses, calamine lotion, 1 percent cortisone cream to alleviate the itch. Be sure to wash all clothes.


“Touching the blisters or the fluid in the blisters will not spread the rash,” Nicholson said. See your doctor if the reaction is severe or widespread, involves the face or genitals, is swollen, oozes pus, or lasts more than two weeks. Your child may need strong topical or oral steroids.


These affect 20 percent of the population some time in their lives and are often caused by stress, pollen, bug bites, food, and other external substances, Chung said. Hives, or urticaria, present as raised, itchy patches of skin and progress to swollen welts. Other times, skin will “blanch” or turn white when pressed in the center. Mom and dad, try not to panic, despite the suddenness with which they appear, they often disappear just as quickly.


Chung recommends giving your child an antihistamine, such as Claritin, Zyrtec, or Allegra, and symptoms should dissipate. In more severe cases, involving throat and lip swelling, or if hives are chronic, go see your doctor, she said.

Mosquito Bites

It wouldn’t be summer without mosquitoes, right? Most are active at dawn and dusk and are attracted to perfumes and brightly colored clothing. Keep bugs away with insect repellent containing 10 to 30 percent DEET (N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) and apply every two or five hours, respectively, Nicholson said. Avoid using these products on children under two months, though.


“If your child is bit, apply 1 percent cortisone cream to the site and offer an antihistamine for reliefs,” she said. “Contact your doctor if your child develops fevers, pain, pus, or red streaks from the site.”

Yeast infections

We all have yeast on our bodies. When some people “get hot and sweaty, their bodies react in the form of a rash on areas that are super sweaty,” Chung said. It’s not unusual for kids or adolescents to get them between skin folds in the neck, arms, and groin — especially those playing sports. These infections appear pink and wet-looking and may itch or burn. The first plan of action includes applying a topical steroid or anti-fungal cream, or Selsun Blue shampoo. If the yeast infection doesn’t clear with OTC medicine, see your doctor.

Tick Bites

Pennsylvania and New Jersey are known for harboring more ticks than most states; these little buggers are tiny, tough, and good jumpers, and they’ll hitch a ride on your pant leg, socks, or collar after a walk in the woods or a grassy area. Like mosquitoes, a subset of ticks carry bacteria, including Lyme Disease, Nicholson said. Apply insect repellent with DEET, wear light colored clothes (that makes it easier to see the insects), and tuck pants into socks.


Inspect kids’ entire bodies after outdoor adventures (don’t overlook the groin, armpits, head, and neck), but be sure to remove the tick properly; getting as close to the skin as possible using tweezers, pull the tick straight back, she said. Call your doctor ASAP if you notice redness or a “bulls eye” rash at the bite, or fever. If you think you’ve got a deer tick on your hands (those are the buggers that carry Lyme), you can have it tested for a small fee.


Photograph via Canva. 

Contributing Writer


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