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Common Childhood Skin Conditions and Treatments

Caring for the skin of babies and children is far different from caring for adult skin. The products you can use are limited, and the issues they experience differ from your own. Here are some skin conditions that are common in childhood and how you can treat them if they arise.

1. Diaper rash

This painful, red rash can appear after your child is left in a wet or soiled diaper too long or after a bout of diarrhea. If your child has a diaper rash, keep the area clean with alcohol-free wipes or a wet washcloth, and apply a thick barrier cream that contains zinc oxide. This will not only help to heal the rash, but it keeps your child’s skin from becoming further irritated. When possible, allow your child to have some diaper-free time to allow the skin to breathe.

2. Sensitive skin

Babies and young children often have sensitive, delicate skin, meaning that everyday products and exposures are extra-irritating. Keep the number of chemicals that contact your child’s skin to a minimum. One way to do this is to purchase natural detergents, skin cleansers, lotions and body washes with few, if any, dyes or fragrances added. You should also avoid giving your child hot baths or showers, as they deplete moisture and may leave your child with dry skin.

3. Ringworm

Unlike what the name implies, this skin condition is actually a fungal infection characterized by a round, ring-like appearance. It is easily passed among children at daycares and in other facilities where children gather. To treat it, use an over-the-counter anti-fungal cream, following the age recommendations on the package. Keeping the area covered can prevent your child from scratching the area and further spreading the infection.

4. Burns

From touching a hot plate to staying in the sun too long, your child may experience the occasional burn. While minor burns can be treated at home, those that cause significant blistering or that cover an area larger than a handprint likely require emergency attention. If you are uncertain about the severity, contact your child’s pediatrician for advice on treating the burn. If the burn is very significant, go straight to the emergency room, as children can go into shock from burns.

5. Cuts, scrapes and scratches

Most minor wounds require a bit of first aid, including cleaning the wound with peroxide or soapy water, applying antibiotic ointment, and sealing with a bandage. Keeping the wound clean and covered will help to minimize scarring and the risk of infection. Deep cuts, puncture wounds, or “split” skin–when an impact on a bony area causes the skin to “bust” open–probably require emergency attention. Your child may need a tetanus vaccine and/or stitches in these cases.

6. Human or animal bites

If your child is bitten by a person or an animal, you should probably seek medical attention unless it is no more than a scratch. Bites on the hands and face especially require emergency care. Human bites are actually the most likely to become infected, so your child may receive a course of antibiotics automatically. If you have any suspicion that your child was bitten by a rabid animal, make sure you mention this when seeking help.

There are a number of skin conditions and injuries that can occur in children, and knowing how to handle them can prevent scars, infections and other complications. When in doubt about the severity of any skin condition, call your child’s pediatrician for advice on the steps you should take.

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